Point Me to First Class with Devon Gimbel MD | The Chase Points Ecosystem: What You Need to Know with Dr. Sujatha Murali

57. The Chase Points Ecosystem: What You Need to Know with Dr. Sujatha Murali

Apr 01, 2024

Even if you’ve only ben in the points and miles world for a short time, you’ll know that this is a game that is constantly changing. New rewards cards get introduced, airline and hotel loyalty programs change, and points redeeming opportunities come and go. But one thing that hasn’t changed in recent years is the importance of having transferable points.

If you’re serious about points, you should have access to at least one of the major transferable points currencies. But how do you know which of the transferable currencies you should focus on? This week, I’m joined by Dr. Sujatha Murali, and we’re diving deep into one transferable points currency: the world of Chase Cards and their Ultimate Rewards Points.

Tune in this week to discover everything you need to know about Chase and their Ultimate Rewards Points. We’re discussing the Chase points-earning cards, what you need to know about the ins and outs of qualifying for Chase rewards cards, and you’ll learn what Chase Ultimate Rewards Points can be particularly valuable for when it comes to award travel.


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What You’ll Learn from this Episode: 

  • How we’ve earned and redeemed millions of Chase Ultimate Rewards points over the years.

  • Why we think everyone should seriously consider getting into the Chase points ecosystem early on their points journey.

  • How Chase Cards play a huge role in Sujatha’s points-earning strategy.

  • The 3 biggest strengths of the Chase points ecosystem, compared to other transferable points currencies.

  • How you can build a powerful multi-card Chase portfolio while keeping fees to a minimum.

  • Dr. Sujatha Murali’s tips for getting started building Chase into your points strategy.

  • The specific Chase cards that could earn you tons of transferable points.


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Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to Point Me to First Class, the only show for employed professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners who are looking to optimize their higher-than-average expenses to travel the world. I'm your host, Devon Gimbel, and I believe that your expenses are your greatest untapped asset if you know how to leverage them. Ready to dive into the world of credit card points and miles so you can travel more, travel better, and travel often? Let's get started.

Devon: Welcome back to the podcast everybody. Now, if you've been in the points and miles world for more than a minute, you probably know that this is a game that is constantly changing. New rewards cards get introduced. Airline and hotel loyalty programs change, sometimes for the worse, and points earning and redeeming opportunities come and go.

But one thing that has not changed in all my years of using points for travel is the importance of having transferrable points. In fact, I think that anyone even moderately serious about this hobby should have access to at least one of the five major transferable points currencies because of the value and the flexibility that these points offer.

But sometimes it can be hard to know which of the main five transferable points currencies, that is Amex Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi Thank You points, Capital One miles, or Bilt points will be most useful for you, or what the differences are between these points ecosystems, their points earning cards, and their unique points redemption opportunities.

So today, we are going to be doing a deep dive into one specific points currency, the world of Chase cards and their Ultimate Rewards points, including an overview of the Chase points earning cards. what to know about the ins and outs of qualifying for rewards cards with Chase, and what Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be particularly valuable for when it comes to award travel.

Now, I'm the proud owner of 12 Chase credit cards currently in between personal and business cards. It's the points ecosystem that I have been in in the longest since I got my very first points earning card all the way back in 2012. I've earned and redeemed millions of Chase points for travel over the last couple of years.

While I don't think that everyone absolutely needs to have Chase points earning cards, I do think everyone should consider whether they want to get into the Chase points ecosystem before they get too far into this hobby. We're going to dive into that and so much more on today's episode.

To help me pull back the curtain on the wonderful world of Chase points, I am joined by one of my favorite people and favorite podcast guests, Dr. Sujatha Murali. Now fans of the podcast will recognize Sujatha from podcast episode number 35, the episode all about a PayPal bill pay. I invited her back today because she has a wealth of knowledge about the Chase points ecosystem. Welcome back to the podcast, Sujatha. I'm so excited to have you here.

Dr. Murali: Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here.

Devon: Now you and I exchange a lot of messages, a lot of times about different card offers and different points earning opportunities and basically anything having to do with points. In looking back through all of you know my threads of messages with different points friends, you and I tend to talk a lot about Chase.

That's why I thought this would be such a fantastic opportunity to have you on so that we can kind of compare our notes about just what we think about this points ecosystem in general. Who it's great for, maybe who it's not amazing for, what we think are the strengths and the weaknesses of Chase. But before we dive into all those details, I'm really curious to hear how many Chase cards total do you happen to have?

Dr. Murali: Yeah, so I went and looked this up. So over the last, I would say, 14 to 15 months, I have gotten six business cards and three personal cards. So I have nine. My husband has seven. So he has two personal and five business. So total in our family, we have 16 Chase cards, and this is just in a little bit over a year. So pretty dang quick.

Devon: I think that is one of the most sort of impressive numbers that we're going to throw around today. Like I mentioned, I have my fair share of Chase cards. But I have been slowly collecting these for over a decade. So you have a very different experience. Like you said, you and your husband have been enthusiastically collecting Chase cards over a much shorter period of time.

I'm really curious to hear from you. Why is it that so many Chase cards have been so appealing to you over the last year or two? What do you think are the three biggest strengths of the Chase points ecosystem in general, especially when you compare them to other transferable points currencies?

Dr. Murali: Yep. So Chase made it particularly easy to get multiples of these cards. If you read a little bit into the blogs and talk to some people who are in the points world, they'll kind of give you a little bit of a hint. Like saying yeah you actually can get multiples of the exact same card. You don't have to wait 24 months for the next sub.

So once you get a little inkling of that, my husband and I, luckily, are very much on the same page as far as credit cards and points. We decided to push the limits a little bit. So every month, basically, he and I would refer back and forth to each other. Between the two of us, we ended up getting 11 Inks within the course of 12 months.

This is truly very important to sort of gauge your comfort level, right? I mean, this is not for everyone. In no way am I saying this is something that everyone should go out and do. For him and I, it was just something that we were able to handle. We knew we could meet the subs, and we sort of have an infrastructure in place to be able to manage these cards.

I think for somebody just starting out, the strengths of Chase are really, I think, number one, the ability to accrue points with subs in particular. Number two, transfer partners. That's really one of absolutely their biggest strengths. Obviously, the ability to transfer to Hyatt in particular.

Number three, I think they have a very wide spectrum of cards. They have a great, great lineup of not only transferable point cards, but brand specific cards, which you don't see in every ecosystem. Amex only has a limited number of cards. Capital One has a limited number of cards. Chase has a huge spectrum of cards.

The fourth thing that I think is one of Chase’s unheralded big strengths is the ability to combine points in the same household. So it makes it very easy for my husband when he's accruing his Chase points, the minute his points hit, he transfers his points over to my CSR. So we know every Chase point in the household because it's all sitting in my CSR. So these are all the things that you can kind of leverage to keep organized and sort of pretty rapidly accrue these points.

Devon: Yeah, I agree with everything that you said. When I think about Chase as an overall points ecosystem, I'm just going to expand on some of those points that you see as Chase strengths because I agree with you for the most part. When I think about Chase compared to say, American Express or Citi or Capital One and certainly Bilt in this respect, I do not think that any one of the transferrable points currencies can compare to Chase when it comes to just the sheer volume and variety of points in miles earning cards that are offered.

I actually went on Chase’s website and look this up this morning because I don't actually tend to count this very often. But I thought it'd be relevant for our conversation today. That Chase right now I counted has 29 total points and miles earning cards. So that's a combination of personal credit cards, business credit cards. Again, there's around seven Ultimate Rewards points earning cards.

But Chase offers eight different hotel cards across three different hotel chains. They offer 14 airline cards, which is just an astonishing amount, especially when you do compare that to other points ecosystems. So I think for folks who are really interested in getting into this hobby and can see themselves growing into this, especially over time, over years. I think Chase is one of those ecosystems where it is going to be incredibly difficult for you to exhaust all of your potential options and opportunities to get points and miles cards.

Just that variety itself gives people, again, so many different options to really leverage their particular travel preferences. There're going to be some folks who want to go into hotel co-branded cards or airline co-branded cards, and Chase is going to give you a ton of options for that.

So I think that that's one of the aspects of Chase that doesn't oftentimes get as much attention as some other aspects because there are so many great strengths of this ecosystem. But so far, no other points currency can come close to Chase in terms of just, again, the sheer number and breadth of the rewards cards that are offered.

The other thing that I think is really important about this ecosystem is that I think it is very user friendly. You mentioned especially the ease of combining points with a partner or a P2, a player two, in this hobby. But I think in terms of especially folks who are just getting into points and miles, there are some points ecosystems that I think require a little bit more either effort in terms to learn kind of their ins and outs or their transfer Partners are not as easy to book really great redemptions with.

I just think of Chase almost as like the Apple of the credit card points world. I think it's a very intuitive system. I think it's very user friendly. I think it's very friendly, especially to beginners in points and miles. I think that, again, it's just very easy to use their products to earn points with their different cards.

I think that sort of the third big strength that I think of with Chase is that it is very easy to put together a credit card portfolio of Chase cards that is not necessarily really, really high fee. Like you can put together a multiple card portfolio that is very powerful at earning points in multiple bonus categories that is not going to cost you multiple hundreds or multiple thousands of dollars a year in annual fees in order to carry three or four or five really, really strong points around in cards.

Mybe we'll talk a little bit more about some specific card combinations that we love that we think are powerful. But I think those are some of the aspects that really stand out to me in terms of Chase’s points ecosystem.

But I think one of the things that people have to keep in mind, and this is especially true. I feel like this is becoming more and more true every single year is that it no longer feels like a credit card free for all in terms of you can apply for any card you want as many times as you want in any order that you want. That really rules and regulations around credit card eligibility seemed to be getting more detailed and more strict kind of with every passing year.

This is not specific to Chase, although I think Chase is probably the most well-known of all the points currencies in this aspect because of their famous 5/24 rule. But the truth is that all of the major points currencies have their own idiosyncrasies in terms of eligibility rules for their cards. When it comes to Chase, what do you think is really important for people to know about Chase specific card eligibility rules if they are just getting into this point system for the first time, and they don't want to accidentally mess up their chances of getting approved for certain Chase credit cards?

Dr. Murali: Yeah, you make a very good point where this is sort of constantly evolving and changing. I think last year, like I said, that really just everyone just pushed and pushed. I think all of a sudden January, there's a bit of a hard stop. We're hearing so much about people getting denied and rejected despite multiple phone calls to Chase.

I think for people getting started, it's very important to take a step back and not use the examples of people who do this all the time and are accruing 20 cards a year as in any way reflective of what your experience should be. Very, very important number one rule that everyone obviously talks about all the time is the 5/24 rule where Chase will not approve you for any card, personal or business, if you have opened more than five personal cards of any type in the last 24 months.

I think some people kind of get confused and think maybe it's just five Chase cards. It's actually five any cards. So Amex, an Old Navy card, any card is going to count towards that.

The other thing that I think everyone naturally is going to bump up against is velocity. There is just going to come a point where Chase is going to say we have extended you enough credit. We have extended you enough cards. You're not getting any more.

As a personal example, I went through this in January. I applied for my sixth Ink card, and I reconned three times, and I was not getting it. So I'm taking a step back this year actually. This is sort of the beauty of Chase is they will let  when you're kind of done.

At this point, our plan is to go well above 5/24. I am not going to be applying for a Chase Card probably the next many, many months. You don't need to stay under 5/24 forever, right. The whole point is just get the Chase cards you want. Move on. At some point, these cards will drop off. There are some very general guidelines I think for spacing out applications.

I don't think these are set in stone, but in general, most people recommend no more than one personal in one business card and a 30 day window. Typically Chase will not approve you for two business cards in that 30 day window. So one business card, and that 30 day window. Most people also do recommend maybe extending that out a little bit closer to 60 to 90 days. So three to four cards a year. It's a very manageable velocity where you're probably not going to be bumping up against these rules where you're constantly getting denied for more cards.

The other thing I will mention, the Sapphires are really the absolute foundational cards of this ecosystem. There are two of them. You can only have one. So there's some confusion. People have one of them, can I then apply for the other one? You can't. You really do have to decide to product change into the other one or wait that 48 months until you're sort of due for another sub again.

A lot of questions come up. Should I wait for a higher sub for this card? 48 months is a very, very long time. Four years is a long time. So we say you cannot predict these things. Get that clock started on a Sapphire. Do not try to time it for a higher sub. Get the clock started because really every household really pretty much needs a Sapphire. Yeah.

Devon: Yeah, I agree with you completely on that. it used to be again that there were not as many rules around what you can and can't do. But when I think about Chase, I actually find them, and I'm interested to hear if you agree with me on this or not. I find them to be less restrictive in this area than I think we're seeing from some of the other points currencies like Capital One or Amex, where there are definitely some guidelines that you have to work within.

But, again, given the vast number of cards available to you from Chase, on the personal side, like you mentioned, you cannot get approved for a second Chase Sapphire card. So you cannot be the primary account holder on the Sapphire Preferred and the Sapphire reserve at the same time. Chase has some limitations around how often you can earn the welcome bonus or the signup bonus on a Sapphire card or on a specific Freedom card.

But generally, you can, like I said, hold a lot of different Chase cards. We certainly see on the business side that in terms of the Ultimate Rewards points earning card, Chase currently has sort of three different Chase Ink business cards that you can apply for. So not only can you hold all three of those, so the Chase Ink Business Preferred, the Chase Ink Business Cash, and the Chase Ink Business Unlimited. But as you have experienced and many folks have experienced, you can hold multiples of each one of those.

So for instance, I have two Chase Ink Business cash cards. I have two Chase Ink Business Unlimited cards. The reason for that is I actually have two completely different business entities. So those, for me, are not redundant. I'm not getting the same exact card for the same exact purpose. But the point is that you have a lot of leeway within Chase about the number of cards that you can hold and more than some of the other points ecosystems, again, being able to hold multiples of the same card.

I think one of the important things that you had mentioned before is that unlike some of the other points systems, Chase at least does not have any sort of published hard rule about the total number of cards they are willing to approve you for. But instead what we see from Chase is it does seem like for each individual, there is a total amount of credit that Chase decides they are willing to extend to you, both across the personal credit cards and the business credit cards.

What you may find is that especially as you continue to apply for Chase credit cards, if you do want to hold more than one or more than two or more than five is that at some point, you may get denied for a Chase credit card not because you're over 5/24, not because you've been moving too fast, but because you've started to bump up against that total amount of credit that Chase is willing to extend to you.

I think one of the really great things that Chase so far has seemed to be very lenient about allowing people to do is that even though they may not be willing to extend any more credit to you, in my experience, they have been very flexible with allowing you to move your credit around. Way, way back in the dark ages 10/15 years ago, they would actually let you move credit in between personal and business cards. They've stopped doing that I think probably within the last two years or so. But they will allow you to move credit amongst your personal cards and allow you to move credit amongst your business cards.

This can come in handy because I think what happens to a lot of people is say the first Chase personal card they apply for, that may be a card that they end up having a relatively high credit limit on. But if it's a card that they don't actually need access to a lot of credit on, it can be really convenient to be able to cannibalize some of that credit line and either move it to another card that they do have a lot higher usage on or to be able to use some of that credit, again, to be able to open up a new card.

So for anybody who does have more than one or has a couple Chase cards already in your wallet, just know that at some point if you do get denied for a Chase card, it's always worth calling the Chase reconsideration line and finding out whether or not it really is just an issue of your having bumped up against your credit ceiling that Chase is willing to extend to you.

You can proactively offer that you're not actually looking for more credit. That you would be more than happy to use some of the credit line from a different one of your cards and move that over. I personally have had a lot of success with that. I think even beyond just opening up new credit cards, again, over the years, your credit usage or the card that you're leaning on the most, this can change.

So it's really also helpful to know that just down the line, you can, at least as long as Chase continues to offer this, you can always shift your credit around where you may find that especially if you have like an airline or hotel specific card, you may not be putting a tremendous amount of spend on those cards. You really want to be able to use the credit line from those cards on a more foundational card everyday card that you use like a Sapphire card or a Freedom card. so I think that's one of the really great aspects about Chase is there flexibility in allowing you to do some creative things with your credit line.

But one of the things that I think is a very common question for folks, especially in the beginning, is there's a couple iterations of this. I think it's common for a lot of us to hear what is the best card. If I want to get into Chase or really any points earning ecosystem, just what is the best card? I believe there's no such thing as the best card. Especially in this whole world, most of us are not going to be relying on a single card.

I think much more in terms of what are potential combinations of cards that can be very, very powerful points earners for different scenarios or different circumstances. So Sujatha when you think again about the vast number of Chase cards that are on offer to folks, what do you personally see as some really great or solid combinations of Chase cards to have in terms of points earning and even just additional perks or benefits when it comes to travel?

Dr. Murali: Yeah, so obviously the sheer breadth of Chase’s lineup is a huge advantage, but the downside is it can get very confusing. How do I organize these cards into families? So in my brain, I find sort of very helpful to have almost like an algorithmic approach to this. For me the way, and everyone, people can organize this in different ways.

For me kind of the first fork in the road is what is going to accrue me Ultimate Rewards widely transferable points versus brand specific points. So that for me is kind of the most important thing. Because if I have a Hyatt card, I am not accruing points that I can transfer to Aveos. I can only keep those points in Hyatt.

If we move into the transferable points section of this algorithm, which is kind of where I think most people, especially beginners or experts, I think this is where we spend most of our time trying to accrue these points. We kind of split them, the next fork in the road is really going to be which cards allow us to transfer these points to transfer partners versus which cards don't.

A sort of quick and dirty way to think about this is the no annual fee cards are the ones that really are going to make you keep your Ultimate Reward points in their card system and really only be able to use the Chase portal to the cards with the annual fees. There are three of these that are important to know. Every family really needs one of these.

So the two Sapphire cards, the Sapphire Preferred and the Sapphire Reserve. Then the Ink Business Preferred. These three cards are really the cards we have annual fees. But these are the ones that allow all the Ultimate Rewards that you're accruing to be able to be transferred out to airline and hotel partners, which is by far the value in these points.

These are where we get the outsized redemptions. These are the places where we really are able to leverage taking these points and getting extreme value from them. Foundationally, you need a Sapphire or an Ink Preferred, either one or a most of us actually have both.

The other transferable family that we tend to think about are the Freedom cards. So this is sort of in the personal section, and then there's the business section, right. So the personal section are the Freedom cards. They're great cards. The subs are not great, but they certainly are kind of set it and forget it cards. The Unlimited especially is just one and a half on everything. You don't have to think about it. So if you have a P2 that really just needs one card to put everything, this is a perfect card for that person.

The Freedom Flex has rotating quarterly categories. That requires, obviously, a little bit more. You've got to know what those categories are. There are limits for each quarter. But those, in the personal family category, that's an excellent combination. Sapphire plus a Freedom Unlimited is an outstanding combination for many people to just get a stash of Ultimate Rewards and be able to transfer them out.

The Inks are what Chase calls their business family. Those really, there are four Inks. Three of them are really the ones that accrue Ultimate Rewards. The fourth called the Premiere we don't talk much about because it's cashback but the preferred is the one that allows points to be transferred out to partners. Then the Ink Unlimited and the Ink Cash are also the fee free ones. The big benefit of these, number one, obviously they're fee free.

But number two is that the subs are quite large for fee free cards. A lot of us are trying to get a lot of these because with a referral bonus plus a sub on these cards, a single no fee card can net well over 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points. I think keeping things extremely easy, I think a Sapphire or an Ink Preferred plus an Ink Unlimited or a Freedom Unlimited, those two will get people a lot of points.

Devon: Yeah, I agree with you completely. Like you said, I think for anybody who's seriously in the Chase ecosystem certainly one of the Sapphire cards on the personal side, to me, is almost just a must in terms of having not only a card that's then going to open up and unlock your ability to transfer Chase points to the transfer partners, but they're just great cards. In terms of people who enjoy traveling, who wants to be able to maximize or optimize the number of points they're earning for their spend, the Sapphire cards are just such a no brainer. They've got amazing bonus categories, especially if you start looking at comparing those two cards head to head.

Obviously the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the more premium of the travel rewards cards. So it comes with more perks and benefits than the Sapphire does. It's a little bit stronger points earning in some of its bonus categories, but I think you cannot go wrong with either one of those Sapphire cards. I think in a lot of points circles, the Chase Freedom Unlimited does not get the attention it deserves. I can understand why. Like you said, it oftentimes does not have a really big glamorous signup bonus. That is something to take into consideration.

But I think particularly for folks who like simplicity, for folks who do not want to be on a constant treadmill of signing up for card after card after card, and for folks who tend to have a significant amount of non-category spend, so spend that is not going to earn you bonus points on any one of your other one to 17 different rewards credit cards. I really think the Chase Freedom Unlimited for many, many folks is such a powerful points earning work horse over the course year to year to year.

The fact that it costs nothing to hang on to, I think, is such a huge benefit of that. So most people, again, like you said from just a straightforward approach, having one Sapphire card and I think on the personal side the Chase Freedom Unlimited, or like you mentioned on the business side, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited. Those two cards alone are going to be able to get a lot of work done for you on the Chase ecosystem.

Then one of my favorite things about points is that you can make your own system as complex as suits you. So you can introduce complexity and add more cards, the benefit being you get more cards, you have access to more signup bonuses. You have access to more potential bonus categories, depending on the areas that you tend to have a lot of spend.

I think this is particularly true for folks who are business owners. Oftentimes our business spend looks very different from our personal spend. So being able to have business specific credit cards that can bonus our business spend can be a huge advantage. Chase makes it very, very easy for you to ultimately combine all of the Chase points that you earn across your business and your personal cards.

So I think that for people who do have businesses, it's a very, very easy ecosystem to have multiple points earning credit cards and to benefit from that. One of the things that we haven't mentioned so far in terms of a what I consider to be a very unique points earning opportunity that Chase affords that so far, in my experience, I have not found a competitor in terms of the other points currencies is the unique ability that the Chase Ink Business Cash card provides.

So Sujatha, you mentioned this is one of the business cards that Chase offers. It's a no fee business card. It oftentimes has a very competitive signup bonus. So I think the standard bonuses around 75,000 points, which, again, for a no fee card is incredibly strong. We've seen that go up to as high as 90,000, which is really, really remarkable.

But one of the things that's amazing about the Chase Ink Business cash card is that one of its bonus categories is that you can earn five times points on internet, cable, phone charges, and office supply stores. That opens up really, really unique opportunities to earn a significant amount of points on spend that can be very high for certain folks. There's really creative ways to really maximize that. I think that's one of the reasons that people end up holding more than one Case Ink Business Cash card.

So again, no one needs to start out in Chase by applying for six Chase cards all at once. I would recommend that you not apply for six Chase cards all at once. But this is a points ecosystem that you can grow into, that you can spend years  slowly and deliberately accumulating cards, if that's your style. Or you can have the approach like Sujatha where when there are some great opportunities, you go ahead and you get multiple Chase Ink cards in a very short period of time.

But there are so many other ways at least, I think there's some really great ways to earn Chase points beyond just those initial welcome bonuses. Because, like we said, a lot of folks are not going to want to consistently open up a lot of new cards every single year. There may be phases or seasons where like you saw an opportunity, and you do have a pretty fast velocity over six months or 12 months.

But there are going to be other phases where you don't want to open up maybe any new cards for a year. Maybe you're thinking about applying for a mortgage, or maybe you're just happy with the number of cards that you have, and you're really not looking to sign up for new cards.

I think one of the great things about Chase is that there are some great points earning opportunities beyond just earning welcome bonuses with new cards, but I'm curious to hear from you, Sujatha. Do you have any favorite ways to earn Chase points once you're outside of that welcome bonus period?

Dr. Murali: Yeah, I think the two highest point accruers for us are number one, referral bonuses. So this has just been a massive, massive point order for us. Just referring myself to my husband and my husband back to me. Number two, I do not shop online without checking a particular website called cashbackmonitor.com.

So everyone knows about Rakuten. This is the one that gets all the press. But Chase has its own shopping portal. It's actually a little bit difficult to find. I would not say it's intuitive to kind of find this on the site, but cashbackmonitor.com is going to give you points multipliers for all the shopping portals out there, including all the airline shopping portals, Chase shopping portal, Rakuten, and things like that.

Pretty much every internet shopping trip that you do, I go through that website first to try to find the highest multiplier for whatever I'm buying. Lululemon is a great example of this. This is not on Rakuten but it is on Chase. I have routinely found Lululemon eight times on the Chase shopping portal. So things like that, incredibly easy, gimme point multipliers that you can get.

For me personally, we have three Chase Ink Cash cards. I utilize fee free gift cards extensively. I hit my $25,000 bonus pretty early in the year for those, and I'm actually considering product changing one of my unlimited to a fourth Ink Cash, but obviously, this is a very personal decision. But this is also something you can ease into. No one is saying to go into Staples and buy $5,000 worth of gift cards. Buy $200, $400. Keep them in your wallet. Anytime you go to Walmart, you go to any other store that does not give you multipliers, this is a great way to kind of rack up Chase points.

So for me, personally, those are really the three main ways that we accrue. I also, both of us are very good at paying attention to point multipliers because this is important to us. I have a $15 label maker from Amazon. I actually label every single one of my cards with the multipliers on it. I tend to remember things pretty well, but my husband sometimes just needs to quickly look at the card and say, hey which one should I use this for. A certain level of organization is required for the number of cards that we have.

But I would say between referral bonuses and using the Chase shopping portal as well as gift cards with the Ink Cash. We will not be getting any new Chase cards anytime soon. So this is where my stash of Chase points for the next probably six to eight months is going to come from.

Devon: Yeah, I agree with all of those points earning methods. There's one other thing that Chase offers that it's so fascinating to me because I feel like one, they never talk about it. They do a terrible job of advertising it. A lot of folks don't even know that it exists. They miss out potentially on some really great opportunities to earn points. That is I don't even know what to call it. Like I said, Chase doesn't even have a title for it. I call it just card specific promotions. I'll link this up in the show notes in the episode description so that you don't have to hunt around the internet to find this.

But Chase has a website, it's just chase.com/mybonus. Again, they don't tell anyone about this. At least, I've never received an email about this. I've never received a notification in my Chase account about this. But if you go to chase.com/mybonus, oftentimes they will have either monthly or quarterly promotions. They do have to be targeted to a specific card. So these are not guaranteed. Even if you carry specific Chase cards, you're always guaranteed to get these promotions.

But all they ask you to do is to type in the last four digits of your Chase Card, your last name, and your zip code. So if you're like me, and you hold more than one Chase Card, it might take you all of five minutes to kind of cycle through and enter in each one of your card accounts separately. But this can be such a fantastic way to get additional card promotions.

What I mean by that is I've seen this most frequently specifically on the airline and the hotel cobranded cards. So things like the Chase United credit cards or the Chase Southwest credit cards. This has popped up on my personal Chase World of Hyatt credit card where for, again, a defined period of time, whether that's a month, it's usually more like three months there will be additional points earning opportunities.

I've seen these in the flavor of like when you use this one specific credit card, for me, it's been the World of Hyatt card, earn five times points on gas or earn five times points on grocery for a designated period of time. So oftentimes, it turns some of your cards it sort of adds a bonus category that that card does not ordinarily have. In my experience, it's added bonus categories that Chase otherwise does not tend to bonus well, things like gas and grocery.

So I think it can be very, very beneficial where, again, set yourself a reminder once every month, once every quarter. You can just go to that website, run all your cards through there, see if there's any promotions that are on these cards because they do have to be activated. So unless you make the effort to go to this website, put in your card information, and then click the button that says activate on the individual card. This won't be available to you.

This is such an easy way, again, to earn five times points on certain bonus categories for a period of time where otherwise, like you said, I might not be grabbing my World of Hyatt personal card and thinking about paying for my gas or my groceries with that. But if there's a period of time where I can earn five  World of Hyatt points for every dollar I spend on certain categories then that becomes I think a very powerful points earning opportunity.

Another example of this is that I actually had one of these cards specific promotions on my Chase Ink Business Unlimited card. So this is a card that I already considered to be a powerful points earning card. It earns one and a half times points on all spend. So within my business that is a card that gets a lot of use. I have a lot of business spend that otherwise is not going to earn bonus points in any other traditional rewards credit card bonus category.

One of the promotions that was available on the Chase Ink Business Unlimited card through this chase.com/mybonus website was that for a period of time again, I think was about three months. My Chase Ink Business Unlimited card, instead of earning 1.5 times points on all spend was earning an extra point per dollar up to $45,000 of spend. So, again, for my business, my Chase Ink Business Unlimited card transformed from a one and a half times points earning card to a two and a half times points earning card.

It's just things like this, again, that can significantly increase your ability to earn a lot of points for the spend that you are already doing. I cannot think of another one of the transferable points earning cards that offers something sort of analogous to this my bonus promotion that Chase offers.

So for anybody who holds any Chase cards, again, whether they are the transferable points earning cards, whether they are co-branded airline or hotel specific cards, personal cards or business cards, I think it makes so much sense just to set yourself a reminder and check out this my bonus promotion website for Chase just to see if you have been targeted for any one of these additional points earning opportunities.

I think it's such an easy way to earn even more points, again, for the money that you're already spending. But despite all of the amazing things about Chase that we've talked about, the breadth of the cards they offer, the ability to earn points through a lot of different mechanisms, no points ecosystem is perfect. I think there are a lot of things that Chase could do better. Sujatha, I'm curious to hear from you. Where do you think that Chase falls down in terms of weaknesses of this specific points ecosystem, especially compared to some of the other transferrable points currencies?

Devon: There are definitely some limitations to Chase, however much we love it. Obviously, there's some things that we sometimes back up against. I think one of the difficulties is the nebulousness, sometimes of the rules, which can change rather rapidly, and you kind of can't expect it. You don't expect it. You're not very predictable. I think the perfect example is how lenient Chase was last year in getting a whole bunch of cards very, very quickly. Then all of a sudden, in January, we all noticed that we were all getting denied for our multiples of each card.

Overall, their transfer partners are great. I think they definitely have some. They're also missing some. Sort of the same way with your finances and your money portfolio, we recommend diversity and diversification. That's also very important is to have other credit card ecosystems that you can kind of patch in some of the holes that that Chase or Amex or Capital One has. Having one particular ecosystem and putting all your eggs in that basket is just not going to provide you with the kind of flexibility that having sort of multiple areas have the ability to transfer.

Devon: Yeah, I think those are really great points. I agree with you on that. I also think that I mentioned this a little bit earlier, I think one of the things that Chase does not do well is when I think about one of the common areas where folks tend to spend money and then cards within any specific points currency that bonus that type of spend.

I think Chase, especially compared to all of the other major points currencies, is that they do not have a really great points earning card that bonuses gas or grocery spend, especially what I consider to be a high level. Like three points per dollar spent. Think this is especially true in the grocery category. To me, this is just such a huge lost opportunity. I don't think that in this respect that Chase can hold a candle especially to American Express with their Amex Personal Gold card. The Citi Premier card earns three times points on grocery. There are so many other points earning cards that do grocery bonusing right that I wish Chase would take a message and come out with something really compelling in this area.

They have the Chase Freedom flex card that traditionally will bonus grocery spend, but that's only one quarter a year. Again, that's only up to $1,500 spent in that one quarter. So for most of us who are having groceries more than just one quarter a year, those of us who have relatively high grocery spend, I really think that Chase falls down hard in this area.

I also think compared to some of the other points earning ecosystems, Chase does not have a really great option for a charge card. That is important to some people. It's not going to be important to everybody, but I think especially for folks who do tend to have large individual expenses, I see this all the time for myself personally on the business side. A lot of business credit cards can have relatively low credit lines compared to some of the expenses that we may face in our business. I think this is where American Express and Capital One certainly, especially in the last year, have really started changing the game in terms of offering amazing points earning charge cards.

You mentioned a little bit before that there is this sort of like nebulous Chase Ink Business Premier card that no one ever talks about. That is a charge card. But the reason none of us talk about it, or at least those of us who really prioritize points earning, is that that is sort of the one lone truly cashback card in Chase’s portfolio. So for folks who want to focus on earning points and especially transferrable points I don't consider the Chase Ink Business Premier card to be a compelling card at all.

So I wish that Chase would follow suit with American Express and Capital One and at least in the business side, if not on the personal side, really expand their portfolio to include a nice points earning charge card.

Then the last thing that I think about in terms of Chase, especially as we have seen things evolve so much over the last number of years is that while Chase, I think, five years ago, 10 years ago had one of the most compelling and strongest transfer partner menus. I think that it is a weakness of the Chase points ecosystem that their transfer partner chart has not really significantly improved ever.

What we have seen is the gradual loss of some transfer partners. You used to be able to transfer Chase points directly over to Korean Airlines. They had some phenomenal points redemptions, particularly for travel to Asia. No longer we don't have that as an option. I have not seen them really make any significant strides in terms of expanding their transfer partner chart, or kind of related to this, Chase doesn't tend to offer really great transfer bonuses.

So when we start to see newcomers in this field, like Bilt that didn't even exist 10 years ago, not only offering some really innovative ways to earn points but Bilt, I think, is changing the conversation around transfer bonuses. So when you look at how has Chase traditionally stood in some of these areas and how are they standing up against their competitors now.

Even though I love the transfer partner menu that Chase has, I don't think that they have been very innovative in terms of expanding that menu at all or offering really great transfer bonuses to some programs like we have seen traditionally with American Express and certainly with Bilt.

So I hope that Chase doesn't rest on its laurels. It's traditionally been a very strong points ecosystem. I think one of the challenges of that is maybe, and of course, I have no idea. I don't know anyone in Chase. They never talk to me nor do they even know I exist. So they're not really concerned about my opinion of their points ecosystem.

But I do wonder if Chase because traditionally it has been such a strong and popular points ecosystem, if there has been less of an interest really in innovating. I hope that some of these other points ecosystems and the really interesting things that they are starting to offer, I hope that that nudges Chase in the same direction.

But despite the fact that I have not been pleasantly surprised by any changes that Chase has made in terms of their transfer partner chart. The truth is, they have a really, really strong opportunity in terms of transfer partners. They have about 14 different airline and hotel transfer partners. There's a lot of value to be had in many of those transfer partners.

I'm curious to hear from you, Sujatha. Of all chases airline and hotel transfer partners, which ones do you just personally think are the most valuable or the most useful when it comes to sweet spots or getting tons of value from your Chase points?

Dr. Murali: I would arguably say that the Chase to Hyatt pipeline out of almost every single credit card ecosystem and transfer partner is the most valuable, I think, for most people. It's so user friendly. It's a fixed award chart. You don't have to worry about what the price is going to be. It's not six digits the way it is with Hilton and Marriott.

It is just, I think for someone getting into this in the beginning and saying look I've accrued all these Ultimate Rewards from signup bonuses and spend. How do I even begin to start using this? If you remember nothing other than Hyatt Hotels, I think you've come a very, very long way. So crucially, crucially important and very easy to use.

I think there are absolutely some airlines sweet spots though, and I think that this is where most people kind of really bang their head against the wall. If you do any sort of reading into this, there are people getting these unbelievable $20,000 flights for 80,000 points. I personally forget about all that. I do not have the life where I can fly Lufthansa first class in two days.

So I know that there are just certain things that when it's time for me to book a flight, typically it is a year out since we have an elementary school kid. Both of us are full time docs. We have to plan very far in advance. There are a few kind of airline sites that are kind of start with to look at.

So United is exclusive to Chase. There are some huge pros to United, meaning it's extremely easy to cancel, get your points back, move flights around. It makes kind of booking flights and canceling flights very, very easy. You don't have to worry about fees to cancel, things like that.

The downside is it's expensive, right? They completely change their award chart about a year ago. It's not cheap. They definitely are on the higher end of the number of points that are needed, especially for business class. But the big benefits of United as this is really my first line Star Alliance search because their calendar view is so excellent.

If you look at the other Star Alliance carriers, it's a little bit difficult to search their website. So even if I am thinking Star Alliance is where I'm going to fly on this trip, I immediately go to United regardless of what airline I think I'm going to fly on because their calendar view is excellent. So I would definitely recommend doing that.

The other little sweet spot with United that people don't talk about a lot is international Premium Economy. People think oh I want the business class, or I can only afford economy. Look in the middle here because international Premium Economy, you can often get on United for about 45,000 points, and it's well worth it for a little bit of a bigger seat, a little bit more space, things like that.

The second thing that I definitely look at is Virgin because their redemptions for Delta are often outstanding. They often have nine to 10 economy or premium economy seats for Delta Metal. I completely ignore the Delta website. I no longer go on that website to look at point redemptions. It's just complete and utter sticker shock. So if you think Delta Metal, you want to fly on a Delta plane on a Delta flight, start with Virgin Atlantic. That is going to be a great sweet spot.

The third sweet spot airline redemption for us as a family of three. Very often there are families of four and five is Flying Blue. Fantastic airline. This is the points reward system for Air France and KLM. They often have multiple business class seats, five, six, seven seats. This is one of the rare airlines that releases multiple business class seats. They also give a discount for kids under 11. You get 25% off your points redemption. So those are really the three airline partners that I personally tend to use.

There are obviously others for very niche redemptions to Asia and things like that, which are obviously things you can read about. But I think is a very basic outline for airline redemptions United for Star Alliance calendar, Virgin to book Delta flights, and Flying Blue for large families that release multiple business class seats. These are really my first three searches.

Devon: Yeah, I agree with you. I think that, like I said, this is an area where traditionally Chase, I think by virtue of the lack of other players being able to transfer to some of their transfer partners, traditionally had a more unique transfer partner chart than what we see with Chase today. You mentioned with Hyatt and United, traditionally, these were exclusive to Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Now with Bilt coming onto the scene, you can move built points to Hyatt and United. But I don't really take that into account because I think it's much harder to earn a lot of Bilt points than it is to earn a lot of Chase points just because especially when you put them head to head, Bilt right now has a points earning card. Chase has what seems like 172.

But for the most part, again, I think Hyatt and united traditionally were areas where you could just get tremendous value from Chase points. My experience is that as has become much less true with United as they did devalue their chart, but, again, I agree that there can be some great opportunities there.

Hyatt for me is, like you said, number one through 10 In terms of the value of Chase points. I think I would argue that if you do not really see the value in the Hyatt system or if that's just not something that's that important to you in terms of your travel patterns then I think that Chase potentially holds much less significance when it comes to your options of different points that you can collect.

But when I think about Chase, I agree. I do not think, like looking at their entire transfer partner chart, I cannot off the top of my head, think of any of just the outrageous points redemption opportunities that still continue to exist being accessible with Chase. I think about things like using American Airlines points to book JAL first class or traditionally using American Airlines points or miles to book Qatar. Some of the amazing deals you can still get on ANA.

I don't think honestly of Chase points is having access to any one of those just outrageous sweet spots. Like you said, the vast majority of folks are not going to be chasing those dinner. The vast majority of folks are thinking how can I get a lot of value from my points, but, again, I'm not looking for when ANA is going to release a single seat on The Room between one specific route on one specific date.

I think what Chase does really well with their transfer partners is they offer solid, reliable, generally easy to find great awards. I think that is what the vast majority of us are looking for. I agree when I'm traveling with my family, I'm not trying to get us on some unicorn award of like seven business class seats nonstop to Australia or New Zealand. I'm thinking how do I get my family of four to a general region in Europe. That is so doable with Chase points.

I think that one of the strengths of Chase, especially when you do start thinking broader and thinking about if and when you feel comfortable getting into other points currencies, Chase points plays so well with other points currencies. When I look at the transfer partners like Air France Flying Blue, Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways, and Singapore, these four programs are transfer partners have multiple, if not all of the transferable points currencies. So I think that these are the types of airline programs that I find myself going back to again and again and again.

Like I said finding just really solid points redemptions, whether that's for domestic economy, international economy, international business class for multiple people. I think that that shouldn't be understated. It's not quite as glamorous, of course, as oh yeah, I flew Emirate’s Game Changer, which is probably the single best airline flight I've ever taken in my life. The reality is I'm not flying that with my family. Right? I did rearrange my schedule to have that specific experience. That's not the way most folks are looking to use their points.

So I think from just that utility factor, Chase really shines in just how usable their points are with so many of these transfer partners that you can overlap and effectively combine points with other points currencies. So I think that sometimes doesn't get as much notice as it deserves.

But really, if one of the priorities is how can most regular folks who don't want to make this their full time job get value out of their points, I think Chase’s transfer partners do make it really, really easy to do that. So we've covered so many different aspects of the Chase points system, the Ultimate Rewards points in particular, all the different types of opportunities that you have within Chase. Before we wrap up today, Sujatha, I'm just curious if there's sort of any last tips or any last words of advice you have for folks when it comes to thinking about the Chase point system, who it's good for, how to use these points well.

Dr. Murali: I think if you are seriously interested in redeeming points for travel, I think you just have to get your toes in this ecosystem. I think start slow. Most people recommend something like a Chase Sapphire Preferred, $95 annual fee, very easy. Just get the sub on one card. Once you get used to sort of the predictability, the pattern. Once these points come in, I think people very rapidly get a little bit addicted to this.

Then once you sort of make your first redemption, I think really the world is your oyster. People get a lot more comfortable. It's like with everything else in life, the new things are incredibly intimidating. It's incredibly scary to see these points leave your Chase account and go someplace else. But I think even as something as simple as a Hyatt staycation in your hometown. Once you see how easy it is to sort of get value from these Chase points, I think you will sort of get addicted very quickly. Every person has their comfort level with this. Some people have the patience to deal with this. Some people don't. I think you have to gauge the level of interest here.

Devon: I agree. Thank you so much for joining me today. As always, I love talking with you. You're such a wealth of knowledge about all things, but particularly around Chase. So everybody, I hope that this episode kind of introduced you to the wide world of Chase points and has given you some ideas about how to approach this ecosystem in terms of your overall credit card portfolio and achieving your points travel dreams. So thank you everybody for joining us today. We will see you back here again same time, same place next week.

Thank you for joining me for this week's episode of Point Me to First Class. If you want more tips on turning your expenses into travel, visit pointmetofirstclass.com to learn more. See you next week.


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