If that was the case, then I probably wouldn’t be writing this post, right?
In fact, there are a few other ways to earn large amounts of UR points AFTER you get your credit card sign up bonus. Today, I’m going to teach you about the most under appreciated and overlooked way to earn Chase UR points.
In fact, I’m continually stunned that 90% of people fail use this method that I use to earn TENS OF THOUSANDS of Ultimate Rewards points every year. Yes, TENS OF THOUSANDS!
That’s like getting a free roundtrip ticket to Europe every year!
Ready for it?
Before you think “I don’t know how to do that” or “eh, that’s too hard and complicated” and close this window, hear me out for one minute.
Truth: I ABSOLUTELY HATE SHOPPING (my wife enjoys it enough for the both of us).
As much as I love frequent flyer miles, I hate shopping equally as much (want proof? I’m currently wearing my high school’s tennis t-shirt that I got as a senior…12 years ago!)
If this was hard or difficult in the slightest way, I wouldn’t do it.
So if I do it, you know it must be a cinch!
And, it gets even better. To make things even easier for you, I’ve created a video (only 3 minutes) to show you EXACTLY how to use the best online shopping portal of them all, the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall!
How the Online Shopping Portal Works
No pushing around a too-full cart when shopping online!
Every time you shop through the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall, you’ll be earning Chase UR points. The reason this can be so lucrative is because many merchants will offer bonuses (sometimes really big ones) for you to shop at their store if you route through the Ultimate Rewards Mall first.
Let’s look at J. Crew (Heather’s favorite store) as an example:
If you go directly to J. Crew’s website, either through Google or by typing in jcrew.com, you’ll only receive 1 Chase UR point if you use a Chase credit card (such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred orInk Plus), exactly the same way you would if you went to the store.
However, if you take the 2 minutes or less to sign in to the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall and THEN redirect to J. Crew’s website (which is exactly the same one you would have went to if you went to it directly), they will offer you bonus UR points for each dollar you spend. Currently, the bonus is 5x at J. Crew.
So, in addition to the regular 1 UR points you’ll get for using your Chase credit card for shopping, you’ll get an ADDITIONAL 5 UR points for every $1 you spend.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that by routing through the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall, that $200 you spend will earn you 1,200 UR points instead of a measly 200. And it only takes an extra 2 minutes (max) to sign in to the UR Mall and then redirect to your favorite store!
1,000 points for 2 minutes? If you’re time is that valuable, what are you doing wasting time reading my blog!
I could give you example after example of times I’ve used the Ultimate Rewards Mall to score big points, but I’ll just leave you with the one that got me to go all-in on using shopping portals (a decision that has earned me tens of thousands of points).
A Personal Example (or How the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall Gave Me a Very Merry Christmas)
Rewind to pre-Christmas, 2011. My siblings and I wanted to get my parents something special and so my sister suggested a hot air balloon ride. We all thought that was great, so she started searching around and found one on Groupon for $300.
Luckily, I had just gotten an email about Groupon offering 30x Chase UR points for every $1 spent. I checked it twice to make sure I read it correctly.
Yep, 30 Chase UR points for every $1! Un freaking believable!
I called my sister immediately (not an easy thing to do when your in Australia and she’s in America) and walked her through exactly how to purchase the balloon ride through the Chase UR mall (luckily for you, I’ve created a video that will explain it much quicker)!
Just like that, I was 9,000 Chase points richer!
From that day, I was a convert, and I haven’t looked back since!
I’ve never lead you astray before, have I? Take 3 minutes, check out the video, and start watching those UR points pour in in droves!
If you’re gung-ho about online shopping (and you should be!), check out my partner post, which also has a 3 minute video.
It explains how to use Evreward, an awesome website that shows you which online shopping portal gives you the best deal for every store you can think of! It’s not always the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall, so learn to use this tool!
Of course, if you have any questions I don’t answer here, feel free to leave a comment below or email me directly.
If you’re serious about earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points, don’t rely solely on signup bonuses. If you aren’t using the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall for buying products, especially large ticket items like a computer, tv, etc. than you are leaving THOUSANDS of points on the table.
Even if you’re a complete newbie to online shopping, I implore you to give it a shot. Try buying one item and see how it goes. At the very least, you won’t have to drive to the store, and you’ll be earning extra points for sitting on your butt!
What are you feelings on online shopping? If you’re a convert, share the reasons why. Did you have an “A-HA” moment like I did with the hot air balloon ride? If you haven’t committed yet, what reservations do you have? Share, share, share below folks!
The Free Flight Primer is a series of posts which will show, step by step, how to earn and then redeem frequent flyer miles.
I’ll be providing links to tools and websites that are helpful, tons of screenshots or video tutorials of various steps that may prove confusing, and of course, my own thoughts and opinions on the process.
I’ll also be providing a real-life case study using an actual client to better illustrate the process.
Parts 1-5 have focused on picking a destination and finding availability to that destination. Now, it’s time to shift our focus and actually begin getting you the miles you need to fly for free. If you’ve been following the Free Flight Primer and already have a stockpile of miles, great! But for most newbies, building up your miles balance is a crucial step. Let’s jump right in.
Step 1: Determine How Many Miles You Need
You did this back in Part 1, so I’ll just recap it quickly. If you want to re-read the full version, go here and scroll down to Step 3. The best place to start is milez.biz, which will give you the amount of points needed to fly to your destination across almost all airlines. Consider the following:
What airlines did you find availability on in Parts 3-5?
How many people are flying?
What cabin class do you want to fly?
Case Study: Remember Rob, our case study? He’s looking to fly from New York to Rome in late September. We found good award availability with OneWorld for the dates he wants, he is flying with his wife, and they are looking to fly economy. By looking at milez.biz or at the AA award chart we know that it will cost him 60k roundtrip per person, so he needs 120k AA miles.
Step 2: Determine What Credit Cards Will Get You Your Miles
Credit card signups are far and away the best way to earn miles quickly. There are other ways to pad your balance (which we will discuss later) but to get your free flights, you’ll need to apply for a credit card or two (or three, or four…). So now the question becomes which one?
If you are completely new to the game, I’d recommend you read my Tips For Picking the Right Card page, which gives you a simplified, general overview of what to look for in a credit card. On top of those considerations, we now must also look at our specific scenario and what airlines we are looking to fly.
Two basic recommendations:
1. If you are looking to fly OneWorld, by far the best sign up bonus available is the Citi/AAdvantage cards.
2. If you are looking to fly Star Alliance, there are a few Chase cards that make sense for you. Since Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold [No longer available], and Chase Ink Plus are all good options.
In addition, the Chase United Explorer card is another good option.
Case Study: Rob is flying OneWorld, so he needs 120k AA miles. He already has 38k in his AA account, meaning that an extra 100k would put him over the 120k mark we need for him to fly to Europe and back.
Step 3: Apply for the card(s) and start making the minimum spend.
After getting approved for the card, every card has some requirement to meet before you get the miles in your account. For some cards, this is simply “after first purchase” meaning that you can buy one thing, no matter what, and you’ll get the miles.
For other cards, you must spend a certain amount in a certain time frame (i.e. $2,500 in 3 months). IF YOU DON’T HIT THE MINIMUM SPEND, YOU WON’T GET THE MILES. Always, always make sure you can hit the minimum spend.
Since you have already found the flights you want, the sooner you make the minimum spend, the sooner the miles post to your account. The sooner the miles post to your account, the sooner you can use them to book your flight.
See the pattern? The sooner, the better. Every day you wait is another day that the flights you wanted could be snatched up, so while I don’t advocate going out and spending just to spend, if your travel is coming up fairly soon, then I’d suggest making the spend as quickly as you feasibly, and responsibly, can.
Morals of the story:
1. Plan ahead if possible. It is going to be very difficult to go from 0 miles in March to booking a 100k worth of flights for travel in May. Not impossible, but difficult. Even if you do make the minimum spend and your miles post quickly, the award space that close to the travel date will most likely be gone.
2. If you do find yourself in the above situation and are under the gun to get miles, be flexible with your dates. Something may not be open on the Saturday that you want to leave, but it might be available on Tuesday. Make sure to check all options.
Case study: Rob’s wife applied for both the Citi/AA Visa and Citi/AA Amex using the two browser trick (now dead). She was instantly approved for both. She has met the minimum spend on the Visa and is now working on the minimum spend on the AmEx.
Step 4 (if necessary): Transfer the Points
For some cards, the miles you earn will go directly to your account with that airline (for example, the Citi/AAdvantage card earns you American Airlines miles). For other cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred. you’ll need to transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to the airline of your choosing (such as United). This can be done online and if you are transferring Chase or American Express points, the transfers are instant (the only exception to this is if you are transferring AmEx to ANA, in which case it usually takes 48 hours). If you a transferring Starwoods points, be aware that they can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks.
Case study: Rob and his wife will not need to transfer points, since they are earning AA miles using the Citi/AAdvantage cards and will also be redeeming AA miles for their tickets.
Step 5: Earn Miles Through Ways Other Than Sign Up Bonuses
While signup bonuses will give you the bulk of your points, you can also pad your mileage balances in a variety of other methods. This is especially helpful when a signup bonus leaves you a few thousand points shy of the amount you need for an award ticket. For example, let’s say you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the 50k signup bonus but you need 60k for your roundtrip ticket to Europe. If you are smart, you could end up with these 10k just by meeting your minimum spend.
The easiest way is to use shopping portals. I document why you should use them in this post and then show you how to use my personal favorite, the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall, here. To highlight our above example, if you went through the Chase UR Mall and spent $350 at Groupon, which was running a 30 points/$1 promotion, you’d already have your extra 10k.
I’ve harped on it continuously in other posts, but if you aren’t using shopping portals than you should start considering it, at least for the online purchases you already make.
Each card, in addition to a sign up bonus, will offer some sort of mileage earning for using it. For most cards, it is 1 point/$1 spent, although some offer special bonus categories where they’ll give you 2 points/$1 or even 5 points/$1 spent. For the Chase Sapphire, you’ll get 2x points on travel and dining, meaning that if you used it only these two categories to make your minimum spend of $3,000, you’d end up with an additional 6k points above your sign up bonus.
If you only have one card, it makes sense to use it in lieu of cash as much as possible. You’ll be earning miles and not paying anything extra. If you have more than one card, start being cognizant of which cards give bonuses in what categories and tailor your usage accordingly.
Case study: After the sign up bonus, Rob will have enough AA miles to make his trip. The AA cards only offer 1/$1 for all categories, so after meeting the minimum spend, he’ll have an extra 5k AA miles in his arsenal.
Step 6: Sign up for Award Wallet to Track Your Points
The more involved you get in this game, the more confusing it can get to remember what points you have with what airlines. Why not use a free product that does all hard work for you? Award Wallet will store your account balances for all types of airlines and hotels (except AA, which has blocked Award Wallet) and will update automatically once you set it up. I can’t think of a single good reason not to use it, and recommend it to everyone I know.