120K Chase points vs 160K Amex points. Which is better?

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Would you rather have 120,000 Ultimate Rewards points or 160,000 Membership Rewards points? If that seems like a question with an easy answer, you’ll have to tune in to this week’s Frequent Miler On the Air, where we discuss the complexity and why this comparison matters even if you don’t have a business (the main offers we discuss are for business cards, but we quickly highlight a pair of personal cards with a similar differential to illustrate that this could be applicable to anyone).

Elsewhere on the blog this week, I explained my rationale for cashing out points to buy Series I Savings Bonds, Greg highlights ways to pay your mortgage and top Cambria hotels when you want to get out of the house, and we can finally report that Marriott free night certificate top-off is live. Watch, listen, or read on for more of this week at Frequent Miler.


00:48 Giant Mailbag: Newcomer to the show books round the world with ANA.
2:45 What crazy thing . . . did Nick do this week?
10:38 Mattress Running the Numbers: Nordic Choice 2-month pass
18:32 Main Event: 120K Chase points vs 160K Amex points. Which is better?
53:29 Host Roast
54:44 Question of the Week: Is it worth playing the AA Loyalty Game to move on from Gold to Platinum?

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This week at Frequent Miler

Marriott Bonvoy Free Night Award Top Off Is Live: Combine certificates with up to 15K points.

If you have Marriott free night certificates, late April has finally arrived: you can now top off a certificate with up to 15K points to book a property that costs more points than your certificate will cover. The process here looks pretty smooth in the desktop interface, though it doesn’t look like there is any way to do it on the Marriott app. Marriott sure held out on this one until the last minute, but it’s good to see it finally come live. Note that you still can’t book an upgraded room with a certificate or certificate + points — only standard room awards.

Cashing out: Why Nick is dumping a chunk of points today

We’ve often talked about the diminishing value of points as you gather more of them. In my case, my wife and I had more points than we will use in the near-term and Amex keeps offering additional opportunities to pick up more points. Therefore, we decided to cash out some Amex points at 1.1c per point via the Schwab Platinum so we could put extra savings into Series I US Savings Bonds, setting ourselves up to earn an effective ~8.3% interest over the next year (a bit less if we cash out after one year). While the chance has passed to lock in 7.12% for the first 6 months and 9.62% interest for the second 6 months, you can still buy them between now and late October and lock in 9.62% interest for the first 6 months and then the rate will vary from there. That’s still a very interesting proposition on a US government-backed savings bond product. A point I made in the comments is that the chance to earn these high interest rates makes the prospect of holding unused points in my Membership Rewards account seem expensive since keeping them as points “costs” me the chance to earn a great return (assuming that you don’t otherwise have the cash on hand to max this opportunity out).

How to Earn Rewards by Paying Mortgage

Readers frequently ask about how they can earn rewards while paying for a mortgage. It makes sense — the mortgage is likely the most significant recurring expense for many people and it seems like it should offer a great opportunity to earn welcome bonuses and/or big spend bonuses. In this post, Greg demonstrates some methods you could use to earn rewards for the mortgage, though in many cases these techniques only make sense when triggering big welcome offers given the costs involved.

Credit card cell phone insurance compared

After the mortgage and a car, your smartphone may be among your most expensive possessions. Credit card cell phone insurance can therefore be very attractive , particularly for those with phones that are expensive to repair or replace. In this post, I compare the rewards cards that offer cell phone insurance. Note that quite a few cards that used to offer this benefit stopped offering coverage as of 1/1/22, so be sure to take a look through your wallet and be sure that you’re using the best card for the job. While I had previously decided that it made sense to earn more rewards and forgo insurance, the number of lines now on my plan means that I’m happy to have the peace of mind.

Choice’s Cambria Hotel Gems (Great value with Citi points!)

If you have Citi ThankYou points and you’re looking to stay at the coolest Choice Privileges properties in the US, Greg highlights a bunch of Cambria hotels that look to be both good deals and interesting hotels. Like Greg, I think I’ve only once stayed at a Cambria. Like Greg, my stay was fine, though I had no magic mirror and my property had a bit less pizazz. It’s great to have a list of them to check out so we can determine how excited we should collectively be about the Citi to Choice sweet spot.

[June and July available!] Baseball fans: Capital One has great seats for 5,000 miles each

I wanted to include this Quick Deal post in this week-in-review because I figured that many readers might be interested in knowing that this opportunity has been extended to summertime games. I personally bought four seats for a Sunday afternoon game in July that would have cost more than $200 each on the resale market — but they cost me just 20,000 Capital One miles total. I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I grew up going to see a local minor league team. At the prices Capital One is offering (when they have the exclusive seats available), the nostalgia of a day at the ballpark and the chance to sit in great seats to enjoy that seemed too much to pass up.

El Capitan Hotel Merced California: Bottom Line Review

Hats off to Greg and his wife for climbing El Capitan :-). This bottom line review intrigued me because I enjoy checking out towns without tourist appeal. Don’t get me wrong, I like Paris and Miami and other popular tourist destinations also, but there is an allure I can’t quite explain to checking out life in a random place that feels more like a spot where people live than a spot people visit. I’m not sure I’ll ever fly to California just to get to Merced, but if I had reason to drive the route I’d probably check this place out based on Greg’s review.

Which 40 Night Hyatt Milestone Reward should I pick?

Greg republished this post after recently reaching his 40-night milestone for the year with an important reminder: while Hyatt will (apparently) still let you choose a FIND experience discount as a milestone rewards, they aren’t currently offering FIND experiences. Greg took the points this time, which I think is the right call for exactly the reason he stated: they are easy to track and can be used any time.


That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Keep an eye out for this week’s last chance deals and grab them before they are gone.

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Al C

The recurring theme for optimal strategy seems clear – Chase for stays (Hyatt) and Amex for international business class flights to get there and back. So my question to Greg and Nick (or others) – which Amex MR partners have you transferred the most to over the past several years or going forward (assuming you didn’t have a stockpile of airline miles), which MR partners would you anticipate using the most. Thanks.

MRS

I can’t help but think that that Nick is basically just reversing the recent (within the last 6 months or so) Amex -> Schwab devaluation :.(

DjG

The I bonds, assuming you went for $20k ($10k per person) a pretty low investment floor, @ 0.011, that’s 1,818,181 MRs, correct? Enjoy most all advice offered but this has me conflicted.

LarryInNYC

Listened to the podcast and all I could think was “wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong”.

If Greg is going to use “verse” when he means “versus”, I mean, how seriously can we take any of his arguments? Is his name even “Greg”? It could be “Craig”! “Nick” could be “Rick”! “Stephen” could be “Steven”, for heaven’s sake!

I think there may have been some more of the podcast after “verse”, I didn’t notice.

Frank

Wow! I hope you are joking! If not, I trust you have never made a typo before.

Anyway, I am with Greg all the way. Amex used to be the difficult one for collecting oodles of points, but now they dish them out like candy at the dentist’s office.

I see Chase points as worth at least 50% more than Amex – maybe it’s just that they transfer to my favorite airline and hotel.

LarryInNYC

I am, of course, joking as I hope would be obvious (I’m sure it would be obvious to Greg). And while I am, of course, subject to the occasional typo using a similarly-sounding word in place of a different word is technically a malapropism.