My wife and I are credit card rewards junkies. But we're selective card holders. I only have two at the moment; Laurel has three. The main reason is that we like to maximize our rewards by charging as much as possible to a single rewards card.
For a long time we fed at the rewards trough of United Airlines' Mileage Plus, which pumped a mile into a frequent flyer account for every dollar we spent. Eventually, though, we got tired of United's stinginess when it came time to redeem our miles for a free flight.
Rarely were seats available on the itinerary that we wanted. So it seemed senseless to have a rewards card that was so difficult to be rewarded by.
Thus Hawaiian Airlines' VISA card replaced not-so-good old Mileage Plus. We fly to Maui for a vacation most years, 2010 being an exception, so we figured this rewards card was a good fit for us. And indeed, it has been.
Hawaiian is generous with its frequent flyer miles redemptions. We've never had a problem getting coach tickets on the dates we wanted. Compared to anal seat-retentive United Airlines, Hawaiian is as easy to get along with as the balmy beaches that the airline takes us to.
However, we've built up a backlog of Hawaiian frequent flyer miles. And I began to think, "It'd be nice to be able to use our credit card points for something other than a Hawaiian Airlines flight."
This led me to search for a replacement rewards card that offered more flexibility in how we could be rewarded. After quite a bit of research, which included reading a New York Times review, I settled on the Chase Sapphire card. So far, we haven't been disappointed.
A big benefit to Chase Sapphire is that travel rewards can be redeemed in cash through the card's Ultimate Rewards program. This offers ultimate flexibility.
- There are simply no restrictions or blackout dates when it comes to booking travel through Ultimate Rewards. And if you can't find the flight or hotel you want, simply buy it elsewhere with your card then use your points to pay yourself back with a credit to your statement—any flight, any airline, any hotel, any place, any time.
Today I made reservations through the Chase Sapphire online travel booking site for the two of us on an Alaskan Airlines flight from Portland to Burbank, California. The cost was more than I expected (guess I'm still remembering the old days of $99 airline tickets to LA).
But the payment pain was considerably lessened by an automatic deduction of 35,000 miles ($350) from our account to help pay for the tickets. 10,000 of those miles, I'm pretty sure, came courtesy of Chase when we got the card -- which has no annual fee.
The cost of the tickets was exactly what I'd been quoted when I checked the Alaska Airlines web site directly. The only difference was that I saved $350 by using our Chase Sapphire points, and also got two points per dollar charged for the remaining price of the tickets by going through Ultimate Rewards.
Here's another nice thing about the Chase Sapphire card: when they first arrived in the mail, a sticker on the cards instructed us to call a phone number to activate them. I expected to get the usual automated voice mail system that'd ask me to enter my card number followed by the pound sign, etc. etc.
However, a real live person answered (who didn't even have an Indian accent). She was pleasantly informal. My address must have come up when she looked up our newly activated Chase Sapphire card, because she said "Oh, you live near Ankeny Hill Road. I was just visiting my sister in Oregon. She's in your neighborhood."
It was refreshing to call a credit card company and have a nice chat with a representative who wasn't rushed, was competent, and didn't try to sell me anything. Indeed, Chase Sapphire promises:
- Our phones are answered by people, not prompts
- If you have a problem with your account, a question about your bill, a fraudulent charge or even if you're traveling abroad—our dedicated customer service reps are available to answer your call around-the-clock. Yes, really. Holidays. Weekends. In the U.S. or abroad. With Chase Sapphire, excellent customer service is alive and well. Never automated.
It's difficult to feel warm and fuzzy toward a credit card. I can't say that my Chase Sapphire card has become my best friend. But it's turning out to be a good companion, which is all I can ask of a piece of plastic.