Guides Basics

How to Use Chase Pay Yourself Back Feature: Step-by-Step Guide

Starting May 31, 2020, Chase added a new temporary benefit for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card  and Chase Sapphire Reserve® members to “Pay Yourself Back.”

Note: The “Pay Yourself Back” feature is not available to the no annual fee Chase Sapphire card.

How Pay Yourself Back Works

The Pay Yourself Back Program lets Chase Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cardholders redeem Ultimate Rewards to offset select category purchases at a favorable rate.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: 1.25 cents per point
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 1.50 cents per point

Pay Yourself Back Categories:

  • Restaurants
  • Grocery stores (including take out and eligible delivery services)
  • Home improvement stores
  • Select charitable organizations
  • The following charitable organizations are currently eligible for Pay Yourself Back: American Red Cross, Equal Justice Initiative, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, International Medical Corporation, Leadership Conference Education Fund, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Urban League, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, United  Negro College Fund, United Way, and World Central Kitchen.

The current promotion is valid through September 30, 2020, but it’s possible that it may be extended due to uncertain times.

[ March 30 Update ] Pay Yourself Back is extended until Sept 30, 2021.

How to Use Pay Yourself Back: Step-by-Step Guide

1. Log in to your online Chase account

Sign into your online Chase account and navigate to the Ultimate Rewards tab located on the bottom of the left column.

2. Select your Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve card

Select the card you’d like to access. If you have multiple Ultimate Reward earning cards, you can choose to pool points to the Sapphire card to redeem.

In our example, we choose the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

3. Select the “Pay Yourself Back” menu option located in the left menu column

Navigate to the left hand column and select the “Pay Yourself Back” menu item. Clicking the main promotional banner also works, as seen in the screenshot below.

4. Pay Yourself Back

The current categories for pay yourself back are: restaurant and grocery stores (including take out and eligible delivery services), home improvement stores, and select charitable organizations.

5. Choose the purchases to Pay Yourself Back

After each purChase posts, you have 90 days to pay yourself back. Check the respective box to select the purChase.

6. Set your amount

Enter the dollar amount you’d like to receive as a statement credit by using some or all of your available Ultimate Rewards points. The Chase Sapphire Preferred redemption rate is 1.25 cents per point, and the Sapphire Reserve is 1.50 cents per point.

After setting the cash value, click “Confirm & Submit” to redeem!

...

Best Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

One of the main benefits of Chase Ultimate Rewards points is that you can transfer them out to partners if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Chase Ink Preferred.

You can view credit card offers by going to the "Credit Card Offers" tab. Find offers for the respective cards in "Travel Rewards Credit Cards" and "Business Credit Cards." You don't have to use our links, but we're grateful when you do. Thank you for supporting AskSebby!

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer at a rate of 1:1. On average, you can get up to two cents per point when you use transfer partners.

If you're looking for the most value possible, then airline partners are the way to go for first class redemption. This also works well for last minute flights.

VIA CHASE ULTIMATE REWARDS PORTAL

The way I redeem points for "best value" is hotels because everyone in your travel group can benefit.

For example, if I transfer my Ultimate Rewards points to United:

  • United Polaris (US to Asia) is 70k one-way, per person
  • 70k Chase points => 70k United points

On the other hand, if I transferred my Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt:

  • Hyatt Category 7 (top tier) is 30k, per night.
  • 30k Chase points => 30k Hyatt points.

For the cost of a round trip United Polaris flight to Asia, I can get four nights at a top tier Hyatt property.

Examples:

  • Park Hyatt: NYC, Paris-Vendome, Tokyo, Sydney
  • Hyatt Residence: Maui, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, Aspen

IHG is not an ideal transfer partner because of the cost of the points, and you typically need more points for a redemption.

In my experience, Hyatt has the best redemption value for transfer partners. The Category 1 Hyatt properties start at 5,000 Hyatt points.

Category 1 = 5,000 Hyatt points / 5,000 Chase UR points

  • $100 a night / 5k points = 2 cents per point
  • $200 a night / 5k points = 4 CPP

Check out the video below for more redemption ideas.

...

Featured Articles

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
First 5 Credit Cards Strategy for Travel
Travel

Building a strong foundation of credit cards is essential for a healthy credit score. In this post, we’ll walk through the first 5 credit cards to consider if you’re starting out in your credit journey.

A few guidelines:

  1. Chase 5/24 - Chase has an unwritten rule where you’ll automatically get denied for a credit card if you have more than 5 credit cards from ANY credit issuers in the past 24 months. This only applies to credit cards. Personal loans, car loans, etc. do not count towards the Chase 5/24 rule.
  2. Chase typically likes to see 12 months of non-authorized user credit history before they approve you for a card. Your mileage may vary based on your banking relationship and income level.
  3. Why are we focused on Chase cards? Due to the restrictive Chase 5/24 rule, it mathematically makes sense to get Chase cards first, then move on to other credit issuers. Each Chase slot is easily worth $500-$1,000 in travel. More details here: https://www.asksebby.com/blog/how-much-are-Chase-credit-cards-worth

Credit Card #1: Any student or secured card

Since Chase typically likes to see at least 12 months of personal credit history, your first credit card should be a student credit card (if you qualify), a starter card, or a secured card.

I strongly recommend picking a card that does not have an annual fee since you should plan on keeping the card long-term. This card is the foundation of your credit card history, and the last thing you want to do is cancel your oldest card due to the annual fee.

Capital One, Bank of America, and Citi have good beginner card options.

Credit Card #2: Chase Freedom Unlimited® or Chase Freedom Flex℠

After holding credit card #1 for at least 12 months, I recommend going for a Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited to start building a credit relationship with Chase.

I’ve seen people get approved for a Chase card with less than 12 months of credit history, but they usually have a higher income ($80k+) or other credit mixes.

Chase starter cards:

  • Chase Freedom Flex - earn 5% on select rotating categories each quarter you activate, up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited - earn a flat rate of 1.5% on everything.

If you have a lot of miscellaneous expenses like home improvement, taxes, or tuition, I recommend going for the Freedom Unlimited.

You can product change between the Chase Freedom Flex and the Freedom Unlimited.


Credit Card #3: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Depending on what your income is and if you have plans to travel, I recommend going for either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Sapphire Reserve.

Wait at least 3 months of having the Freedom card before applying. If you apply sooner, it could raise flags due to the velocity of card applications.

The following rules apply to the Sapphire cards:

  • You can only hold one Sapphire card at a time (unless you’re grandfathered in)
  • You can only receive one Sapphire bonus (regardless if Reserve or Preferred) once every 4 years

Since the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite card, you need to have the ability to get approved for a minimum of $10,000 credit line. I recommend having an income of at least $35,000+ to increase your chances of approval.

If you don’t have plans to travel in the near future or you value Chase travel partners, I suggest going for the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The Sapphire Preferred has a higher intro bonus of 100,000 points, and a lower annual fee.

Worst case, you can cash out the 100,000 points for a net $905. After a year, you can product change the Sapphire Preferred to a Sapphire Reserve.

Bonus: Add Chase Ink Cards

Chase business cards do not count towards Chase 5/24, but they’re affected by it. You must be at 4/24 or under to get approved for a Chase business credit card.

If you qualify for business credit cards, I recommend adding them here.

You can qualify for a business credit card if you generate any type of income outside of your full-time job. Examples would be tutoring, rental income, selling online, or babysitting. Depending on the state you live in, you could qualify as a sole proprietor.

Credit Card #4 and #5: Any remaining Chase credit cards you want

Chased on your travel goals, I recommend filling in slots #4 and #5 with the remaining Chase credit cards that are on your list.

A strong hotel keeper card that I’ve kept long term is the The World of Hyatt Credit Card since redemption nights start at 5,000. You also get a free night certificate each card anniversary.

A few other cards worth considering:

Pick the cards based on your airline or hotel preferences.

Alternatives to Chase Credit Cards

If you are not a fan of Chase or you’re not eligible for Chase credit cards, I recommend going for Capital One first since they’re inquiry sensitive.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $95
  • 12+ Airline transfer partners
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®  
  • No foreign transaction fees

Barclays

Barclays has a soft 6/24 rule that is not always enforced. If you open more than 6 credit cards in the past 24 months from any credit issuer, then you’re likely to get denied.

Barclays credit cards worth considering:

  • Barclays Aviator cards
  • Barclays JetBlue Plus

Although some of the Barclays cards have no annual fee products in the same family tree, some people have had trouble requesting a downgrade. I recommend building a strong foundation of cards first before moving on to Barclays.

America Express

American Express is not sensitive to velocity or inquiries, so I would save Amex cards as the last cards you get.

Important note: I do not recommend getting an Amex card with an annual fee as your first credit card. If the Amex card does not have a no annual fee downgrade path, and you choose to cancel in the future, you lose the credit history.

Bank of America

For people with a lot of assets with Bank of America, I suggest checking out our post on the Bank of America Duo to maximize your points: https://www.asksebby.com/blog/bank-of-america-duo-credit-cards-for-high-net-worth-individuals

...
How to Book the Waldorf Astoria Maldives
Travel

One of the best redemptions for the Hilton Weekend Night Reward certificate from the American Express Aspire and Surpass cards is the Waldorf Astoria Maldives.

Important Notes & Costs

A few important notes to consider before jumping to book the property:

  • The $700/person (round trip) yacht transfer to get to the resort, which is subject to 23.2% tax and service charge per adult, is NOT included. You can choose to charter a third party boat, but the cost will still be hefty.  There’s not a way to avoid a transfer fee.
  • The cost of food is 2-4x what you would expect to pay in the U.S. since everything is imported onto the island. As a point of reference, a personal pizza costs $40+, not including the 23% tax and service charge.
  • If you plan to dine at any of the fine dining restaurants, be prepared to spend $200+ per person.

Even if your room rate is covered, a stay at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives is expensive. Now that the sticker shock warning is out of the way, let’s dive into how we booked the room.

Using Weekend Night Rewards and Points

The retail rate for an overwater villa is ~$3,000/night. We booked our four-night stay using three free weekend night certificates, and 120,000 Hilton Honors points for the fourth night.

For each Weekend Night Reward, you’ll need to create a separate reservation. The hotel can combine them afterward. We created four consecutive day bookings.

We didn’t end up booking a fifth night since the booking doesn’t qualify for the 5th night free promotion. To qualify for 5th night free, you must book your entire stay using points. Weekend Night Rewards do not qualify.

Beach Villa vs. Overwater Villa

If you want to increase your chances of getting an overwater villa, I recommend visiting during off-season or shoulder season.

We booked the standard base beach room villa and received a complimentary upgrade due to having Diamond status. Upgrades are NOT guaranteed.

If you want to guarantee an overwater villa, I suggest booking one directly or inquiring to pay out of pocket for the upgrade.

It’s worth mentioning that the beach villas are also huge (2,500 square feet) with the same standard room layouts.

Hilton Honors Gold or Diamond Status

Before your stay at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, I highly recommend having Hilton Honors Gold or Diamond status to get complimentary access to the breakfast buffet. Without Gold or Diamond status, you’ll end up paying a hefty price tag for the a la carte menu. To put things in perspective, a basic plate of eggs costs $30 + tax and tip.  

The easiest way to earn automatic Hilton Honors elite status is via credit cards.

Hilton Gold

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

  • Earn 12x on Hilton purchases
  • 6x at U.S. restaurants
  • 6x at U.S. supermarkets
  • 6x at  U.S. gas stations
  • 3x on everything else
  • Earn a free weekend night after spending $15,000 in a calendar year
  • Complimentary Hilton Gold status
  • Priority Pass: 10 free visits
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $95, not waived
  • Rates and fees
61f666d7227edc5a4d0eccce

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Point Multipliers:
  • Earn 5X points points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • Earn 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
  • Earn 1X points on all other purchases
  • Complimentary Hilton Gold and Marriott Bonvoy Gold status
  • Credits:
  • $200 annual airline fee credit per calendar year to use for incidental fees like baggage fees
  • Up to $200 Uber credit, distributed $15/month and $35 in December
  • Up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit, issued in $50 increments every 6 months per calendar year
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit once every 4 years
  • Annual fee: $695
  • Rates and fees
  • Terms apply and enrollment required for select American Express benefits and offers.
61dd5e1110473a94e55f70e1

Hilton Diamond

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

AmEx-Hilton-Honors-Aspire.png
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Point Multipliers:
  • Earn 14x on Hilton purchases
  • 7x on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • 7x on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
  • 7x at U.S. restaurants
  • 3x on all other purchases
  • One weekend night reward and every year after renewal
  • Complimentary Hilton Diamond  status
  • up to $250 Hilton resort statement credit
  • Priority Pass Select membership

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by AskSebby.com. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through AskSebby.com.

YouTube Video

...
Amexs Adds Cell Phone Protection to Select Cards
American Express

Beginning on April 1, 2021, American Express is adding cell phone protection on select premium cards. This is a big deal because it was a weakness in the American Express core setup compared to other issuers like Chase and Citi.

Which Amex Cards have Cell Phone Protection?

The following cards have the cell phone protection benefit:

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • The American Express Platinum Card for Schwab
  • The Platinum Card from American Express for Goldman Sachs
  • The Platinum Card from American Express for Morgan Stanley
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Centurion Card from American Express
  • Business Centurion Card from American Express

What does Amex Cell Phone Protection Cover?

Amex cell phone protection covers theft and damage of your cell phone.

The maximum liability is $800, per claim, per Eligible Card Account. Each claim is subject to a $50 deductible. Coverage is limited to two (2) claims per Eligible Card Account per 12 month period.

Many of the blogs that received the press release mention that screen damage is covered, but I don't see that mentioned in the terms. Cosmetic damage is NOT covered if it doesn't impact the phone’s ability to make or receive phone calls. However, if there is significant damage to the screen and the phone is not functional, it would be covered.

What does Amex Cell Phone Protection NOT Cover?

According to the benefit terms and conditions, the following items are not covered:

  • Accessories other than the standard battery and standard antenna provided by the manufacturer;
  • Cell phones purchased for resale or for professional or commercial use. Exclusion applies for Consumer card accounts only;
  • Lost or Mysterious Disappearance;
  • Cell phones under the care and control of a common carrier, including, but not limited to, the U.S. Postal Service, airplanes or delivery service;
  • Cell phones which have been rented, leased, borrowed, or Cellular Wireless Telephones that are received as part of a pre-paid plan;
  • Cosmetic damage (i.e.superficial abrasions or scuffs) to the Eligible Cellular Wireless Telephone or damage that does not impact the Eligible Cellular Wireless Telephone’s ability to make or receive phone calls;
  • Damage or theft resulting from abuse, intentional acts, fraud, hostilities of any kind (including, but not limited to, war, invasion, rebellion or insurrection), confiscation by the authorities, risks of contraband, illegal activities, normal wear and tear, flood, earthquake, radioactive contamination, or damage from inherent product defects or vermin;
  • Damage or theft resulting from misdelivery or voluntary parting from the Eligible Cellular Wireless Telephone;
  • Replacement Eligible Cellular Wireless Telephone(s) purchased from anyone other than a cellular service provider’s retail or internet store that can initiate activation with the cellular service provider;
  • Taxes, delivery or transportation charges or any fees associated with the service provided;
  • Losses covered under warranty issued by a manufacturer, distributor, or seller

How does Amex Cell Phone Protection Work?

  1. The phone needs to be listed on your phone bill
  2. You need to pay the prior month's phone bill with the eligible cards, and ideally, future bills

The idea is that you can't just swap this in when your phone breaks. If you don't pay subsequent bills, you will lose coverage.

How to file a claim

To file a claim, you’ll need to contact the benefits administrator within 90 days of the loss or as soon as reasonably possible. Once the claim process is initiated, you’ll have 120 days to submit all necessary paperwork; otherwise, the claim may not be honored.

You’ll need the following documents:

  • Your eligible American Express card account statement reflecting that you paid the eligible cellular wireless telephone bill for the month preceding the date the phone was stolen or suffered damage
  • A copy of your cell phone bill
  • A copy of the original cell phone bill purchase receipt or other sufficient proof of the cell phone model currently linked to your cell phone account
  • A copy of the insurance claim to the eligible person’s homeowner’s, renter’s or personal auto insurance or any applicable cell phone insurance, in the event that the claim amount is less than the deductible
  • For claims due to damage, you need repair estimates and photos of the damage  
  • For claims due to theft, you need a copy of a police report within 48 hours of the theft

...
Pay Over Time: Amex Platinum, Gold, and Green Credit Cards
American Express

What is Pay Over Time?

Pay Over Time was always a feature for American Express charge cards. Cardholders can choose to pay their statements in full or carry a balance on eligible charges, up to their Pay Over Time Limit.

However, it was recently brought to my attention that some of my cards were auto-enrolled in Pay Over Time, which makes them act like credit cards.

Cards auto-enrolled in Pay Over Time:

  • American Express® Gold Card
  • American Express® Green Card
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • American Express® Business Gold Card

You can check your Pay Over Time status by logging into your Amex account -> Account Services -> Pay Charges Over Time. All of my cards had a default Pay Over Time limit of $10,000.

An important note is that although there is a Pay Over Time Limit, it’s not the same as a credit limit. While the cards technically don’t have a credit limit, if your Pay Over Time Limit is $10,000, you can carry a balance of up to $10,000 and pay the remainder in full.  

Important note: Although Pay Over Time is an option, I recommend avoiding it since paying interest usually negates any points value. Always pay off the credit card balance in full, and don’t get a credit card if it tempts you to spend more than you normally would.

Pay Over Time 10,000 MR Bonus

The negative impact of being auto-enrolled in Pay Over Time is that cardholders are no longer eligible for the 10,000 MR bonus. In the past, Amex sent out targeted offers to enroll in the optional feature. My guess is that the bonus no longer exists.

I had my fair share of enrollment bonuses since I have multiple Amex Platinum and Gold cards.

Why Would Amex Shift to Credit Cards from Charge Cards?

The elephant in the room is why American Express would change their charge cards to credit cards. To answer this question, let’s dive into their Q4 2019 financial statements.

Since Amex is a publicly traded company, its earnings report is publicly available: https://ir.americanexpress.com/Cache/IRCache/1ef02650-2d57-1ac2-cedb-51e6bc3ad90a.PDF?O=PDF&T=&Y=&D=&FID=1ef02650-2d57-1ac2-cedb-51e6bc3ad90a&iid=102700

Charge Card Write-Offs

If you flip over to page 8 in the earnings report, you can see that the charge net write-off rates jump from 1.4% to 1.9% within 12 months. However, it looks like the 30+ days past due percentage has little change.

PAGE 8 VIA HTTPS://IR.AMERICANEXPRESS.COM/CACHE/IRCACHE/1EF02650-2D57-1AC2-CEDB-51E6BC3AD90A.PDF?O=PDF&T=&Y=&D=&FID=1EF02650-2D57-1AC2-CEDB-51E6BC3AD90A&IID=102700

My guess is that since the charge net write-off rates have increased, Amex would rather collect interest on outstanding balances instead of writing them off.

By auto-enrolling cardholders in the Pay Over Time program, Amex can earn more interest income instead of chasing after delinquent accounts.

Provisions for losses is money set aside for write-offs. Total provisions for losses jumped from $809 million in Q1 2019 to $1.024 billion in Q4 2019.

PAGE 9 VIA HTTPS://IR.AMERICANEXPRESS.COM/CACHE/IRCACHE/1EF02650-2D57-1AC2-CEDB-51E6BC3AD90A.PDF?O=PDF&T=&Y=&D=&FID=1EF02650-2D57-1AC2-CEDB-51E6BC3AD90A&IID=102700

It’s no secret that American Express makes a large percentage of their revenue via swipe fees, which increased by 6% in Q4 2019. Other notable increases are net card fees (annual fees) and net interest income.

My prediction is that more people were getting the cards due to good marketing, and they ended up paying interest as opposed to paying the card off in full each month.

By auto-enrolling cardholders in Pay Over Time, Amex is cutting back on potential write-offs and making money on the interest. Only time will tell if their strategy is more profitable.

...
How to Use the CardMatch Tool to Find Better Sign-Up Offers
American Express

What if you could save time and find multiple credit card offers that you're prequalified for without impacting your credit score? Sometimes, you may even get targeted for special offers (not publicly available) based on your credit profile when you use the CardMatch Tool.  

What is CardMatch?

CardMatch is a tool that shows you pre-approved and special targeted offers (sometimes) from select credit issuers. The tool conducts a soft pull so that it won't affect your credit score. See your matched offers in less than 60 seconds.

Why use CardMatch?

Every so often, the CardMatch tool has great offers for select cards. For example, not everyone will be targeted, but sometimes you can find The Platinum Card® from American Express with 125,000-150,000 point welcome offers after you spend $6,000 within the first 6 months. Terms apply. A couple of AskSebby subscribers have reported they were able to apply for and get the offer. YMMV.

Users may not be matched with all offers or banks, and matches are based on your credit profile.

How to use the CardMatch Tool

To take advantage of targeted offers available, simply go to the CardMatch Tool. Enter your information, agree to the terms of service, and the system will search for offers.

Be sure to view "All Matches" to see everything you're targeted for.

Want to see if you're pre-qualified for any great offers? Try it out yourself!

CardMatch Tool

...
Best Downgrade Options for the Citi Prestige
Citi

On July 23, 2017, Citi removed their card benefits like trip protection and insurances.

A lot of cardholders are wondering what their options are — should they cancel or product change the Citi Prestige?

Annual fee

A significant factor in determining which route to take is the annual fee. The annual fee is $450, but it comes with a $250 travel credit, making the effective annual fee $200.

In some cases, you can apply in-branch to receive a lower annual fee of $350, making the effective annual fee $100 after the travel credit.

The main question is if the lower $350 annual fee will be honored the second year, or if the fee will increase to $450.

We’re hesitant to keep the card with an effective $200 annual fee because there are alternative luxury cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum that provide the same, if not better, value.

Before considering downgrade/product change options, we need to consider if this card is worth keeping.

4th night free

The best perk the Citi Prestige is known for is book 3 consecutive nights, get the 4th night free. In order to redeem this perk, you have to book through the Citi Prestige Concierge.

Effective July 23, 2017, Citi will rebate the average room rate across your stay of 4 or more nights, not including taxes.

Citi ThankYou Points

My main concern is that if I cancel or product change the card, I won’t be able to receive an intro bonus for a Citi card (that earns ThankYou points) in the next 2 years.

Citi has a rule that you can qualify for an intro bonus every 2 years across the same product family. For example, if you were approved for the Citi ThankYou Preferred card in 2015, you would not receive an intro bonus for the Citi Prestige if you applied the same year. You would have to wait until 2017 to qualify for another Citi intro bonus.

Since I signed up for the Citi Prestige in September 2016, that means I won’t be eligible for another ThankYou bonus until September 2018. If I cancel the card now, it resets the clock meaning I won’t be eligible for another bonus until September 2019.

Product change options

In terms of product changes, there are 3 cards I’m considering:

  1. Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
  2. Citi® Double Cash Card
  3. Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Pros:

  • Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter
  • 5% eligible categories: Restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, live entertainment.
  • Earns Citi ThankYou points
  • No activation required

Cons:

  • Only ideal if you have heavy spend in one of the qualifying 5% categories mentioned above
61f662b66a3bc52492e64945

Citi® Double Cash Card

Pros:

  • 2% on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay the bill
  • Citi Price Rewind, but this benefit is included with every card

Cons:

  • If you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can earn 1.5x with the Unlimited and redeem for 3x when you transfer points to the Reserve.
  • I usually have a new card I’m trying to meet minimum spend on…the 2% might not make sense for me vs. meeting minimum spend
61f6630cdb047c410efff4c0

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Pros:

  • I already have Costco membership so “no annual fee”
  • Earn 4% on gas, 3% at restaurants+travel, 2% at Costco
  • Extends Costco warranty on purchases by 2 years

Cons:

  • “Locked in” to Costco
  • Gas isn’t relevant to me (no car) and there are better alternatives for restaurant+travel (CSR)
  • Earn 2% at Costco vs. 1.5% with the Freedom Unlimited (effectively 3% if you transfer points to the Chase Sapphire Reserve)
  • Costco already has an amazing warranty policy

How to request a product change

To request a product change, call the number on the back of your Citi Prestige credit card. Let the agent know which product you'd like to switch the card to.

...
5 Tips to Get Free Hotel Upgrades
Travel

Disclaimer: Don't be that person who is obnoxious and demands an upgrade. You are not entitled to an upgrade — they're usually given based upon availability.

We've been traveling a lot the past month and tested a few methods to see how to get free hotel upgrades. Here are our learnings about what you can do to increase the chance of getting an upgrade, depending on availability. These tips do not guarantee an upgrade.

1. Have status at the hotel group

If you have status with the hotel group you're staying at, your chances of getting a free upgrade increases. Traditionally, people earn status from hotel stays. In order to earn Gold status at the Ritz-Carlton, you'll need 50 nights or 5 meetings. That's a lot of nights!

Source: http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/rewards/benefits
SOURCE: HTTP://WWW.RITZCARLTON.COM/EN/REWARDS/BENEFITS

To get around this, certain credit cards like the Ritz-Carlton, Amex SPG, and the Amex Platinum card will give you certain status levels for free.

2. Don't be a jerk

There are a ton of people who approach the front desk staff acting like they're entitled to an upgrade. Being nice increases your chances of getting an upgrade.

Follow the Golden Rule: treat people how you would want to be treated.

3. Have a reason for the upgrade

This one is a bit grey area, but if you have a special occasion to celebrate like an anniversary or honeymoon, it may increase your chances of getting a free upgrade, depending on availability. We don't personally do this, but we have heard success stories from friends.

4. Check-in late

It's counter-intuitive, but for all of our stays where we received a free upgrade, we checked-in on a weekday and relatively late (after 8 pm).

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Nigel: Checked-in at 10pm, we were offered 3 different complimentary upgrade options.

The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles: Checked-in at 6pm, got a free upgrade to a corner room junior suite.

Hilton Double Tree, NYC: Checked-in at 7pm, booked through Hotels.com because there was a good deal, but we were denied a free upgrade because it wasn't booked directly through Hilton. We showed Gold status through the Hilton app on our phone and we were still denied an upgrade.

They assigned us a room on a lower floor, and when we requested a room on a higher floor, the staff granted us a free upgrade to the Hhonors floor.

5. Book directly with the hotel when possible

Some hotel groups won't honor status if you book a reservation through a third-party website. Whenever possible, book the reservation directly with the hotel and be sure to enter your status.

...
7 Things to Do in Las Vegas
Travel

We recently hopped on a private jet to make the most of our JetSmarter membership and ended up in Vegas. Here's our list of what to do in 48 hours in Las Vegas.

1. Lotus of Siam

Lotus of Siam was crowned the "Best Thai Food in America." Order the crispy duck, soft shell crab over drunken noodles, and garlic prawns.

crispy duck in curry
CRISPY DUCK IN CURRY
crispy duck and soft shell crab over drunken noodles
CRISPY DUCK AND SOFT SHELL CRAB OVER DRUNKEN NOODLES
soft shell crab over drunken noodles
SOFT SHELL CRAB OVER DRUNKEN NOODLES
garlic prawns
GARLIC PRAWNS

Be sure to make a reservation at least two weeks in advance. Since this was a last minute trip, we called the Amex Platinum concierge and they were able to secure a reservation with a few days notice.

2. Downtown Las Vegas Container Park

Visit the Downtown Las Vegas Container Park, which is filled with local boutique shops, a playground, restaurants, and a giant fire breathing pray mantis.

fire pray mantis
FIRE PRAY MANTIS
seb and mantis
shops at container park
SHOPS AT CONTAINER PARK

3. Fremont Street

Take a stroll in the old Vegas by walking down Fremont Street. There's a light show, zipline, and tons of restaurants and casinos to see.

entrance to fremont street
ENTRANCE TO FREMONT STREET

4. Seven Magic Mountains

Seven Magic Mountains is a temporary public art installation consisting of seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders standing more than 25 feet high. The exhibit will be available until May 2018. You'll need to rent a car to drive there; it's located 20 minutes outside The Strip.

seven magic mountains
SEVEN MAGIC MOUNTAINS

5. Eat at a Buffet

To me, Vegas is synonymous to buffets. I can't leave Vegas without eating at a buffet at least once. My favorite is the Wicked Spoon located inside the Cosmopolitan hotel.

The buffet consists of tapas style plates with offerings like bone marrow, crab, fresh oysters, oxtail pho, and prime rib.

oysters
OYSTERS
oxtail pho
OXTAIL PHO
bone marrow
BONE MARROW
desserts
DESSERTS

Pro-tip: go 10 minutes before dinner starts to lock-in the brunch/lunch pricing and enjoy the best of both worlds.

6. The Fountains of Bellagio

The Bellagio's fountains run every 30 minutes from 3pm to 8pm and every 15 minutes from 8pm to 12am Monday through Friday.

On Saturday, Sundays, and holidays, the fountains run every 30 minutes from 12pm-8pm and every 15 minutes 8pm-12am.

fountains of bellagio
FOUNTAINS OF BELLAGIO

7. The LINQ Promenade

The LINQ Promenade is filled with novelty shops including Sprinkles Cupcakes, In-N-Out Burger, and Gordan Ramsay Fish n' Chips. The Promenade also leads to the High Roller (Ferris Wheel).

the linq promenade
THE LINQ PROMENADE

YouTube Video

...
7 Things to Do in Calgary, Alberta
Travel

On our recent trip to see the Canadian Rockies, we flew into Calgary International Airport (YYC) and rented a car to drive to Banff. We spent 24 hours in Calgary and stayed at the Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel (watch the video at the end of the post for hotel details).  

7 Things to Do in Calgary

1. Calgary Tower

Calgary Tower is located in the heart of downtown. The tower has a 360° panoramic view of the city, and there's also a revolving restaurant. If you dine at the restaurant, you can gain complimentary access to the observation deck.

Calgary Tower
101 9 Ave SW
Calgary, Alberta T2P 1J9
Canada

calgary tower: daytime
CALGARY TOWER: DAYTIME
calgary tower: night 
CALGARY TOWER: NIGHT

2. Stephen Avenue Walk

Stephen Avenue Walk is a historic pedestrian mall located steps away from Calgary Tower.

Stephen Avenue Walk
8 Ave SW
Calgary, Alberta T2P 1B3
Canada

stephen avenue walk
STEPHEN AVENUE WALK
more shops at stephen avenue walk
MORE SHOPS AT STEPHEN AVENUE WALK

The Galleria Trees sculptures are an iconic part of Stephens Avenue and located between 2nd and 3rd Street SW. There are ten metal trees designed to reduce the wind gusts on the block. The Galleria Trees are also equipped with an audio system and LED lights.

galleria trees

3. Devonian Gardens

The Devonian Gardens is a large indoor park and botanical garden located in the CORE Shopping Centre (entrance is where the Galleria Trees are on Stephen Ave). Take the escalators up to the 4th floor to explore the gardens.

Devonian Gardens
317 7 Ave SW | CORE Shopping Centre
Calgary, Alberta T6G 2E1
Canada

The Gardens were closed for renovations when we visited, so hopefully, they'll re-open soon!

devonian gardens
DEVONIAN GARDENS
devonian gardens
DEVONIAN GARDENS

4. Eat at Charcut Roast House

Alberta is famous for their steak. Charcut Roast House is the brainchild of Chefs John Jackson and Connie Desousa (a Top Chef Canada finalist). The restaurant has a rustic-chic vibe and a farm-to-table ethos.

Charcut Roast House
101-899 Centre Street S
Calgary, AB T2G 1B8
Canada

charcut roasthouse
charcut menu

We ordered one too many items, but it was all delicious. Get the duck fat fried poutine, prime rib of Alberta beef, and the CHARCUT sausage share burger. All the items are farm-to-table and the servers are incredibly knowledgable about the farms each ingredient was sourced from.

steak board with poutine: before
STEAK BOARD WITH POUTINE: BEFORE

Somehow we managed to clear the whole board. It was THAT good.

steak board with poutine: after
STEAK BOARD WITH POUTINE: AFTER

5. Prince's Island Park

Prince's Island Park is an urban park near downtown Calgary. There are plenty of picnic areas, hiking trails, and flower gardens.

Prince's Island Park
200 Barclay Parade SW, Calgary, AB T2P 4R5
Canada

prince island park
PRINCE ISLAND PARK

The Peace Bridge is a pedestrian and bike bridge designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. It's located on the far west side of Price's Island Park.

peace bridge
peace bridge
PEACE BRIDGE

6. Eat at River Cafe

River Cafe is one of the most popular restaurants in Calgary. It's located in the heart of Prince's Island Park and has a great view of the Bow River. Be sure to make a reservation in advance.

River Cafe
25 Prince's Island Park
Calgary, AB T2P 0R1
Canada

river cafe
RIVER CAFE

7. Visit Chinatown

Take a stroll in Calgary's Chinatown and grab a bite to eat. Chinatown is located along Centre Street in the northeast area of downtown.

calgary chinese cultural center
CALGARY CHINESE CULTURAL CENTER

If you're craving Hong Kong style food, stop by Calgary Court Restaurant. I recommend the lunch specials or a classic bowl of wonton noodles.

calgary court
CALGARY COURT

The lunch special that day was Portuguese baked chicken and pork with spaghetti, milk tea, mushroom soup, and garlic toast, all for CAD $10!

lunch special

YouTube Video

...
7 Things to Do in Banff Springs
Travel

1. Bow Falls

Bow Falls is located in the backyard of the Fairmont Banff Springs. If you're in Downtown Banff and want to go for a light hike, Bow Falls is just a short 5-minute walk away.

Bow Falls
Banff National Park
Alberta, Canada

bow falls
BOW FALLS

2. Downtown Banff

Downtown Banff is lined with tons of restaurants, bars, and shops. Take a stroll and enjoy some Canadian cuisine.

2017-09-25 16.41.08.jpg
2017-09-25 16.43.49.jpg

3. Park Distillery

Park Distillery is a distillery, restaurant, and bar located in Banff National Park. They offer a free distillery tour daily at 3:30 pm.

Park is also great lunch spot; try the rotisserie chicken.

Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar
219 Banff Ave
Banff, AB T1L 1A7, Canada

parkdistillery
2017-09-25 15.08.18.jpg

4. Vermilion Lakes

The Vermilion Lakes are a series of lakes located a short 5-minute drive from Downtown Banff. Vermilion Lakes consists of three lakes formed in the Bow River valley.

vermilion lakes

5. BeaverTails

BeaverTails is a chain store, but it's a novelty. Think Nutella covered pastry topped with fruit or candy. Stop by for a quick snack or dessert.

BeaverTails
120 Banff Ave
Banff, AB T1L 1E7, Canada

2017-09-25 16.40.49.jpg
2017-09-25 16.32.32.jpg

6. Banff Upper Hot Springs

After a long day of hiking, take a soak in Banff Upper Hot Springs. The water flow consists of 100% natural mineral water. Banff Upper Hot Springs is commercialized, but it's the closest one in vicinity to Downtown Banff.

Feeling adventurous? You can rent a historic swim suit for $1.90.

Soak Fees:

  • Adult (18-64): $7.30 CAD
  • Youth (3-17): $6.30 CAD
  • Child (Under 3): Free
  • Senior (65+): $6.30 CAD
  • Swimsuit: $1.90 CAD
  • Towel: $1.90 CAD
  • Locker: $1.00 CAD

Banff Upper Hot Springs
1 Mountain Ave
Banff, AB T1L 1K2, Canada

soak fees
SOAK FEES
historic swim suit
HISTORIC SWIM SUIT
banff upper hot springs
BANFF UPPER HOT SPRINGS

7. Cave and Basin National Historic Site

Cave and Basin National Historic site is the birthplace of Canada's national parks. Start your visit with a Discovery Tour, and then explore the historic architecture, bubbling mineral waters, and underground cave.

Cave and Basin National Historic Site
311 Cave Ave
Banff, AB T0L 0C0, Canada

cave
CAVE
cave and basin national historic site
CAVE AND BASIN NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

YouTube Video

...
No results found.