Category: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Rental Cars

Whether or not this is a fair assessment, rental cars are one area in the travel world where I have found no value with elite status. The reason for this is that your elite status only benefits you when you book through the company directly. While this isn’t that bizarre of a policy, the rate differentials between the companies themselves and third-party sites like Costco and Priceline are astounding! Using the same dates and details, a two-day weekend rental on Priceline cost $40 total; booking through the company directly cost $123 total.

My Wasted Status

Rental car agencies seem to have given up on the leisure traveler and instead go after business travelers whose companies are less concerned about the best deal and more interested in convenience. By holding the American Express Platinum card for instance, I am granted Elite status with National which allows me to walk down the Emerald Aisle and select a car when I arrive to the agency. The cost for this privilege? Over 3X what I would pay using a third party site.

My Favorite Third-Party Perks

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, we most frequently use Priceline which is specifically valuable as a mobile app offering deals not otherwise available online. Using the app, you can book and cancel reservations as often as you like without financial commitment or penalty. I will often book a rental car months in advance, only to re-book the same itinerary as I find cheaper rates (cancelling my previous one afterward) at no cost. It ensures that I am receiving the best deal by the time I rent. If you are feeling committal, their Express Deals offer even better rates if you’re willing to pay in full at the time of booking. The only downfall with Priceline is that the agencies will charge you a fee for any additional drivers on your reservation at the time of pickup. Alternatively, Costco offers rental cars at comparable discounted fares that include an additional driver on the reservation. To make this reservation however, you’ll need your computer and Costco card to be successful.

Insurance Coverage

When you rent a car, the sales person may try to trick you with the question: Basic or Premium Coverage? The answer, if applicable, is “I’m declining all coverage and will use my own insurance policy.” But there’s a couple of things to be aware of when making this decision. Namely, trucks are typically excluded; so if you’re renting a truck, grab the coverage. And if you’re being offered a free upgrade to a truck, decline it. The other hidden detail is the term “Loss of Use.” Rental car companies use this term to describe that if you wreck a vehicle, they will charge you for the loss of revenue they would have otherwise received from renting out that vehicle while it was in the repair shop. Sound hard to prove? It is – and you better believe they are coming after you for a handsome sum. By the way, your personal auto insurance policy doesn’t cover this either. So grab the basic coverage when in doubt, and let your auto insurance cover what the premium package offers instead.

Sapphire Reserve Benefit

We still carry the Chase Sapphire Reserve card despite the fact that we barely use it. However, what makes it special is that it offers PRIMARY auto insurance including Loss of Use coverage for the card holder when that card is used to pay for a rental car in full. The CSR card costs $150/year after easily obtained credits, and therefore this excellent coverage costs only $12.50/month. Depending on how often you rent, you may find this to be a significant discount on the same coverage sold by the agency. And because it is primary insurance, you do not need to involve your own insurance company in the event of an incident!

Cut to the Chase

When it comes to rental cars, I would advocate for using a third party app to book exactly what you want at a low rate rather than hoping you will score an upgrade on “base pricing” using elite status privileges. Nothing will give you more satisfaction and relief than knowing exactly what you are getting before you arrive to the front counter, and that you got it at the lowest possible rate.

2018 Rewards in Review

Another Year Gone

2018 was a wild year for us with big changes including the relocation of my wife who is now working in Nashville completing a postdoctoral appointment while I have remained in Seattle. As a result of our anticipated increase in travel, we increased our monthly spending for annual fees this year to an average monthly budget of $187. With that, we not only supported a bicoastal living arrangement but even fit in some personal vacations as well, all thanks to our reward points.

As in previous years, I meticulously tracked every dollar in and out with regard to credit card annual fees and reward redemptions in 2018 and I’m pleased to say we more than quintupled our budget by using the appropriate mix of cards and redemptions over the last twelve months.

500% Return on Investment

By budgeting $187/month for travel, and using it to pay for the annual fees on our credit cards in 2018, our monthly vacation budget became worth five-times that: $947/month. From an annual standpoint, we redeemed rewards valued at over $11,300 in 2018! For the second year in a row, the most frequent returns were from our AMEX Platinum Card which accounted for nine transactions and nearly 50 airport lounge visits; but that’s no surprise when you consider the list of benefits. The big return in 2018 came from our combined Alaska Cards where we not only used companion fares, but redeemed miles as well.

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Trip Summary

Here’s a look at some of the ways we put these points to work: Phoenix and Peoria for Spring Training; Maui, Hawaii; South Beach Miami and Key West; Nashville and Seattle trips; Lihue, Hawaii; and two trips to Las Vegas.

Where will you go in 2019?

No matter how you plan it, you’re sure to come out ahead when you strategically manage your point and mile redemption. Use signup bonuses to skyrocket you to a top-level redemption, and ensure you’re using the correct cards on your daily spending so you never miss out on a point – don’t be afraid to label your cards┬áto keep yourself organized!

Happy New Year!

Why You’ll Love the New AMEX Gold Card

It’s Goldddd!

You may remember the recent history of luxury travel cards: A longtime American Express employee left the bank to work for Chase where they worked to develop a luxury travel card that millennials (not American Express’ core customer group) could enjoy. Get ’em while they’re young, and keep them forever! They developed the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and (until now) have been the go-to card for dining and travel rewards. It took a couple years, but American Express is finally throwing its own punch with the reinvention of its Gold card (currently available in Rose Gold for a limited time only).

What’s Good About Gold?

The Gold card pairs perfectly with the AMEX Platinum card which already offers 5X points on airfare and travel booked directly with The Gold card earns you 4X points on US dining and supermarkets and lets you pool all of those points in one place. With TPG’s latest valuation on American Express points at 1.9 cents each, that means you’re earning 7.8% back on your dining and supermarket purchases while earning 9.5% back on airfare!

The Gold card also offers a $10 monthly credit for Grubhub (and some other less notable) purchases and an annual $100 airline incidental credit for use on your favorite airline. If you use these benefits, the card only costs you $30/year (the annual fee is $250).

Just like its rose gold design, the Gold card also has a limited time offer associated with it: 20% back at US restaurants for up to $500 in spend within your first three months of having the card. This offer is set to expire on January 9, 2019.

Finally, the referral welcome bonus is 50,000 points (worth $950)! This nearly quadruples your investment on the annual fee for the first year. Pair that with the Platinum referral bonus below and you’ll earn another 60,000 points for a total of $2,090 in reward points!

So Time to Ditch my Chase Sapphire Reserve?

Not so fast. While it is no longer your highest earning card for dining, the CSR will still earn you 4.5% back on hotels and other travel (taxi, rideshare, subway, etc.) that you won’t get with any other premium travel card. In addition, it offers PRIMARY rental car insurance (including loss of use) in addition to trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance and lost luggage reimbursement. After the easy-to-redeem $300 travel credit each year, this card only costs you $12.50/month which is a STEAL for that level of coverage and a price you would likely be happy to otherwise add to your insurance bill.

Need One?

If you’re so inclined, please support my cause by using my referral links below for the cards mentioned in this post. Click one to learn more or apply:

Finding Your Next Card


While I’m no loyalist, I do value commitment in all phases of my life including credit cards. That’s because a percentage of your credit score is the average length of your accounts. If you have two cards, one you’ve had for ten years and the other brand new, your average length of your accounts is five years. If you cancel the card you’ve had for ten years, you now have a nonexistent average. On the flip side, if you retain the card(s) you’ve had longest (assuming they have no annual fees or you’re still claiming the value from the fees), your score can afford to adopt some new plastic or metal friends into your wallet.

Know Yourself and Spot the Fakes

Where do you spend your money? For me, it’s dining and travel. Nearly 100% of my discretionary income goes to one of those two categories. Find out what your category is and find a card that will bring you the most value. Whether you spend most of your money on groceries, gas, business expenses, tuition or rent, there is a card for you. I recommend a simple spreadsheet that takes your annual spending, and calculates the value in rewards provided by each card you’re considering to identify a clear choice and help you spot the fakes!

For instance, you may think you’re doing yourself a favor by charging all of your Alaska Airline purchases to the branded credit card. But let’s say for a moment your goal is to travel from Seattle to New York (JFK) RT nonstop. That itinerary in April is 32,500 miles or $426. To achieve that with your Alaska card, you’ll need to spend $32,500 dollars generally or $10,833 on Alaska Airlines flights alone. Alternatively, you would achieve the required points with just $8,520 in airfare spending with the AMEX Platinum card OR $9,467 in dining and travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. So while the Alaska card is great for the companion fare, don’t confuse the branding as value. In our example, using a non-Alaska Airlines credit card to pay for meals earned triple the rewards on Alaska Airlines flights when compared with its own credit card! Definitely not what you’d expect.

Using a non-Alaska Airlines credit card to pay for meals earned triple the rewards on Alaska Airlines flights when compared with its own credit card!

As you are working through the numbers on your spreadsheet, you may elect to add a powerhouse metal card in your wallet for perks or top categories, as well as an everyday spending card which helps you net the best return for all of your miscellaneous spending. This allows you to maximize your earning potential on all purchases. But the important piece is that you do the math before you start spending. So ensure that the cards you pull out for each purchase are the right ones for the job and most effectively helping you achieve your objectives. Happy traveling!

Platinum or CSR? Why You May Choose Both.



The American Express Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve: These two cards are the power couple of the premium credit card world. Deciding which one is right for you can be tricky; so why not choose both?

I’m Not Crazy

While applying for not one, but two premium metal credit cards with a combined $1,000 annual fee may seem absurd to you, I’m here to provide you with the alternate narrative and tell you why we’ve decided to hold both cards in our wallet in 2018. Read on, and I will explain how $25/month will unlock a plethora of travel benefits for you and your loved ones this year.

Sign Up Bonuses

With the sign up bonuses offered by both cards, the rewards more than compensate you for the annual fees you incur in that first year. At the laziest redemption level, using points to purchase travel through the respective travel portals, you earn $1,350 from sign up bonuses in exchange for the $1,000 in annual fees; a $350 profit if you plan to travel this year.

Annual Fees vs. Credits

The American Express Platinum card carries a $550 annual fee, while offering $200 back in Uber credits and $200 back in airline incidentals. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card carries a $450 annual fee, while offering $300 back in travel credits. If you assume you will spend money with Uber or Uber Eats, the airlines and by traveling anyway, then each card only costs you $150.


For the two cards, it will cost you just $300/year, or $25/month, while affording you these benefits all year long:

What is the perk? How will I use it? Where did I earn it?
$200 worth of airline incidental reimbursements Lounge passes, in-flight food and beverage, baggage fees and seat upgrades
$200 worth of Uber /
Uber Eats reimbursements
Whether you need a ride, or want dinner delivered to you, you can use these credits to accomplish that
$300 worth of travel reimbursement The most generous of benefits: Travel includes airfare, hotels, taxis, etc.
Priority Pass Membership with up to two guests Great for Alaska Air and The Club Lounges
Priority Pass Membership with unlimited guests The Club Lounges…now with more friends!
Centurion Airport Lounge Access My favorite lounge in Las Vegas
Sky Club Airport Lounge Access when flying Delta My favorite lounge in Seattle
Primary Rental Car Insurance This can be better than your own auto policy with the $75K coverage including Loss of Use
10% back on airfare purchases 5X Points valued at $0.02 each
6.6% back on dining (restaurant, bar) purchases  3X Points valued at $0.022 each
6.6% back on travel (hotel, taxi) purchases  3X Points valued at $0.022 each
Boingo Wifi Membership Unlimited access to over a million WiFi hotspots
 SPG Gold Status Room upgrades and more with Sheraton, Westin and other SPG Hotel Brands
Marriott Gold Status Marriott honors SPG status so add them to your list of elite partners
Hilton Gold Status In case that wasn’t enough, you’ll also be covered at Hilton properties too
Trip Cancellation Insurance Up to $10,000 per trip
Baggage Delay Credit $100/day per bag
Trip Delay Credit  Up to $500 per ticket
Price Protection  Up to $500 per item

Referral Links

Well, what do you think? If you decide to apply for one or both cards, please use my referral link below to net me some bonus points in addition to the ones you’ll receive!

Click here to apply for the American Express Platinum Card and earn 60,000 points!