Must have Chase cards


a man holding up some credit cardsIf you want to win big, you’ve got to start with a strategy. In this game, that means figuring out which cards you must have before you go wild applying without aim. This week, we talk about the must-have Chase cards you need to plan to acquire or those you should consider carefully and how to go about getting them.

On the blog this week, Tim gives us a popular new resource to determine the best time to visit numerous places, we cover some Avianca LifeMiles quirks and solutions, Stephen shares a new suite sweet spot and a lot more. Watch or listen to the podcast or read on below for more of this week at Frequent Miler.

Subscribe to our podcast

00:00 Intro
00:55 Giant Mailbag: A “wea culpa”
03:41 Card Talk: Chase Freedom Unlimited & Chase Freedom Flex cards
11:47 What crazy thing . . . triple header?
12:08 What crazy thing . . . did Wyndham Rewards do this week?
15:32 What crazy thing . . . did Avianca LifeMiles do this week?
17:38 What crazy thing . . . did Avianca LifeMiles do this week?
21:25 Award Talk
21:27 Air New Zealand Business Class wide open close-in
29:30 Contacting the hotel works out well
34:50 Main Event: Must-have Chase cards
36:37 Determining your 5/24 count
41:05 The Ultimate Rewards points cards
47:21 Fee-free UR cards
49:58 Which Ultimate Rewards cards are must-have keepers?
57:53 Which Chase airline cards are keepers?
Which Chase hotel cards are keepers?
Question of the Week: How do you audit and chase down your missing points?

We publish Frequent Miler on the Air each week in both video form (above) and as an audio podcast. People love listening to the podcast while driving, working-out, etc. Please check it out and subscribe. Our podcast is available on all popular podcast platforms, including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and many more.

Alternatively, you can listen to the podcast online here.

This week on the Frequent Miler blog…

The best time of year to visit every country in the world (in one table)

Map world globe travel

Ever see an airfare sale or award availability and then wonder “is it a good time of year to go there?”. I’d bet that many of us have Googled that more than once or twice, so Tim put together a resource showing the prevailing advice (in terms of the overlap in opinions from several “expert” sources) in terms of when is good to go where. I’m always a bit skeptical of the “best time to visit” type of advice because I don’t always mind crowds during peak travel times (after all, I figure they may be peak times because it is actually a “good” time to travel there), but at the same time I have often really enjoyed shoulder seasons that may not make someone else’s cut for “ideal”. But the beauty of this reference is that it’s pulling together overlapping suggestions from several sources that show times when it is pretty objectively “good” to travel to a specific location. That’s not to say that the rest of the year is “bad”, but at least I’ll be able to figure out whether the availability I’m seeing is smack in the middle of the “good” times.

Bilt card first impressions

a cell phone on a white surface

Greg recently took the plunge and applied for the Bilt card and shares his initial impressions. There are several good pieces of info here: he got an instant card number, the bonus points from the 5x for the first 5 days count toward elite status, and points post very quickly. I very nearly applied for the Bilt card at the end of my recent application spree for the same reason as Greg — to position myself better for future transfer bonuses — but ultimately I held off for now. I’ll be curious to hear about Greg’s ongoing experiences with the card first, but it’s certainly on my radar for 6x dining on the first of the month and 2x “everywhere else” that I can transfer to a number of useful programs (and hope for continued big transfer bonus promotions).

Cancelling a LifeMiles award ticket: maybe less painful than you thought

a screenshot of a computer

It only took just over 11 minutes for my recent phone call to Avianca LifeMiles to cancel an award ticket. While far easier than I anticipated, and interestingly possible even after no-showing a flight, the process was very convoluted. If I hadn’t known what to expect, I may have skipped over the payment email and missed the window to pay the cancellation fee, but luckily for me so far it seems to have worked out as well as could be expected.

Having issues booking with LifeMiles? Try using the Firefox browser

a screenshot of a phone

Speaking of Avianca LifeMiles, one thing that hasn’t been working out as well as expected is anything one has tried to do on the website. In most browsers, the site has just been showing a blank screen / error when trying to search for awards. The app worked for me for a bit and then I started getting similar errors. However, it seems like Firefox may be a workaround as that browser is working for most people, and it has worked on both desktop and mobile for me. If you’ve been looking to take advantage of the current point transfer bonus, Firefox is your friend.

How to prevent Wyndham points from expiring

a man pointing at a tablet

Wyndham Rewards points can be kept alive for a while with account activity, but after 4 years the points go kaput, regardless of activity. However, there is one type of activity you can do to breathe a new 4-year lease on life into your dormant Wyndham points. Greg explains the trick in this post.

New Choice Hotels sweet spots: Booking suites at Radisson properties

Living room of a 2 bedroom suite at the Radisson Panama City Beach - Oceanfront (image courtesy of Choice Hotels)
Living room of a 2 bedroom suite at the Radisson Panama City Beach – Oceanfront (image courtesy of Choice Hotels)

Stephen covers a nice benefit of the Choice / Radisson merger: the ability to now book suites at some Radisson properties for the same number of points as a standard room. Some of these options look like they could be pretty cool! I have stayed at the Radisson Blu Mall of America a couple of times and would totally consider a suite there for a future stay. At the other end of the spectrum, I stayed at the Radisson JFK Airport once…..and I haven’t been back to the Radisson JFK, which is about all I have to say about that.

How would the Frequent Miler team improve Hyatt? | Ask Us Anything Ep 58

FM Ask Us Anything Ep 58

You asked, we (err, most of us) answered. If you missed our monthly Ask Us Anything, Carrie has the recap so that you can see the team get grilled about everything on the minds of those inquiring. Unfortunately, I slept through this month’s Ask Us Anything as I was once again in Europe (where it was 3am when this happened), but I look forward to the next one and am glad to have the replay of this one for reference.

That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Don’t forget to keep an eye on this week’s last chance deals.

Want to learn more about miles and points? Subscribe to email updates or check out our podcast on your favorite podcast platform.
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

How do you go about contacting a hotel before you arrive? For Hilton I can’t find an email address anywhere!

Mike B

Both my wife and I have Chase Sapphire cards. Sounds like we should downgrade ONE of the cards to a Freedom card to eliminate one of the annual fees. I know I can currently transfer ultimate rewards from one card to another. I’m hoping to confirm that if I downgrade my wife’s card to Freedom, we can still transfer her points to my Sapphire. Second question- Is it best to transfer her UR’s to mine before the downgrade?

Greg The Frequent Miler

Yes, confirmed. You’ll still be able to move points between you and your wife. There’s no reason to transfer before the downgrade, but it can’t hurt if it makes you more comfortable.


If you’re jumping into this game with both feet and working on signing up for a bunch of cards I’ve not seen the value in wanting to pick up either of the Chase Unlimited cards (Freedom or Ink) for long term as a keeper. 1.5X UR doesn’t move the needle when you can dump that everywhere else spend on SUBs, temporary spending bonuses, hotel cards for FNCs at $15K spend, airline cards for companion certificates, merchant or card linked offers, Bilt Rent Day, Capital One Venture cards, AMEX BBP, Citi Double Cash, etc. Plus as you collect all the cards you pick up a bunch of categories and have less and less non-category spend left. That goes down further if you use Ink Cash 5X UR at office supply stores to get gift cards for those non-category retailers or use USB AR 3X mobile wallet to cover miscellaneous businesses.

I’ve more of a fan of the Freedom Flex card of the two Freedoms. The rotating categories let you earn 5X UR in areas that are otherwise difficult to earn elevated rates with Chase (gas, grocery, Walmart), which can be used for regular spend there or to get gift cards not available at office stores with the Ink Cash 5X. I’m of the mind that if the Ink Cash is worth keeping around long term for the 5X capability the Freedom Flex is as well for almost the same arguments (even with a lower spending cap).

Signing up new the Freedom Flex also has a fairly competitive welcome offer if you can sign up during one of the 5X on up to $12K grocery or $6K gas spend for a year offers (or even better the new current offer that is giving 5X on both gas and grocery for a year!). That 5X earning bonus for the year stacks with the rotating categories when they line up which lets you earn 9X for specific quarters.

At the most basic level that guarantees one quarter of elevated earnings plus the base bonus:

  • 20,000 UR points for $500 spend in first 3 months
  • 13,500 UR points for $1500 spend in 9X category (gas or grocery)
  • Total – 33,500 UR points for $2000 spend (plus 5X in the yearlong bonus category up to the spending cap)

Chase has had a tendency to release these yearlong spending bonus offers during a quarter where the bonus category lines up, which means you won’t have a full quarter to spend at the 9X rate. But Chase has also been consistent in having the gas and grocery categories as a rotating bonus at least once a year, which means there is a decent chance you will end up having a second partial or full quarter overlap with the yearlong spending bonus category. Someone who signed up for the offer in January of 2022 for example would have been able to earn 9X on groceries in both Q1 2022 and Q1 2023 since grocery was the Q1 bonus both years. If you don’t sign up exactly on a quarter start you really get three full quarters and two partial quarters to spend the yearlong bonus category on. Now you’ve got two quarters of high bonus earnings:

  • 13,500 UR points for first $1500 spend in 9X category (gas or grocery)
  • 20,000 UR points for already meeting the $500 SUB requirement during the 9X category in first 3 months
  • 13,500 UR points for second $1500 spend in 9X category (gas or grocery) at tail end of first card year
  • Total – 47,000 UR points for $3000 spend (plus other 5X in the yearlong bonus category up to the spending cap)

Now for where the grocery category really shines, this year the Amazon rotating category in Q2 also earned 5X at Whole Foods. Purchases at Whole Foods stacked with the first year grocery 5X bonus. And Whole Foods sells gift cards! So you now have the potential to earn three quarters of 9X spend on the Freedom Flex in the first year with the grocery category:

  • 13,500 UR points for first $1500 spend in 9X category (grocery)
  • 20,000 UR points for already meeting the $500 SUB requirement during the 9X category in first 3 months
  • 13,500 UR points for second $1500 spend in 9X category (grocery on Whole Foods during Amazon quarter)
  • 13,500 UR points for third $1500 spend in 9X category (grocery) at tail end of first card year
  • Total – 60,500 UR points for $4500 spend (plus other 5X in the yearlong bonus category up to the spending cap)

In the end that is almost as good as the base Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve offers of 60K UR points on $4000 spend while having no annual fee for the card. If this 5X on both gas and grocery for a year offer becomes the norm it all but guarantees getting at least two quarters of 9X for the year with a fighting chance of getting three or four quarters depending on timing and whether the Amazon stack will work in the future.

John in Mexico

So one question about business cards. You mention that they are not considered on a personal credit report, hence are a good way around Chase’s 5-24 rule. Does the same hold true on the “back end”? Would credit card issuers take less notice of a cancellation than they would the cancellation of a personal card?

Greg The Frequent Miler

Yes. But also note that cancelling even a personal card is not generally going to hurt you much. The main reason to keep old accounts open is so that they help with the average age of credit and the total credit limit you have available. Both make your credit score better. But if you already have lots of credit and you cancel a more recently acquired card, it won’t matter much.


Having spent 30 hours in Air New Zealand business class seats over the last couple months, I feel like I confidently say they are neither great nor nearly as bad as people make them out to be. Yes, there is not much privacy, though that didn’t bother me much. If you look at a lot of the “bad” reviews of this seat out there (Dennis Bunnik, Nonstop Dan, etc), the one thing that gets buried in the review is that the bed is quite comfortable. The seats fold over into a flat surface, and a plush mattress pad is placed on top (turndown by the staff is proactively offered). This creates an experience much closer to a bed (rather than just a lumpy airplane seat that goes flat). And best of all–your feet are not stuck in a tiny footwell. Also look at the timing of the flight–it leaves at 10pm from SFO/LAX, and gets in around 6am at AKL. You’ll have 2 hours at the beginning for dinner, 2 hours at the end for breakfast, and 9 hours of lights out shuteye time in the middle. Given this, I was happy to deal with less privacy for a couple hours, so that I had a more comfortable sleeping experience.

I found the staff to be more friendly, and the food to be better than the average US carrier business class experience. I also quite enjoyed many of the Kiwi touches, which just got us in the spirit of visiting the country. Overall, we really enjoyed the experience, and felt it was well worth the points (we booked through Virgin).

Greg The Frequent Miler

Awesome info, thanks!


Not sure if you check YouTube comments or not, but there is some discussion on whether or not United Gateway card actually has increased award availability. Would love to hear from you when you have a chance.

Greg The Frequent Miler

The United Gateway card DOES give you expanded award availability. Tim was able to test this out because his wife has the Gateway card and does not have United elite status and she is able to see expanded award availability.


Thanks for the tip about the Gateway card giving you 5k points a year if you already have the United Business Card (which I do). I applied for the Gateway yesterday. I’m not a regular United flier, but now I can feel better about keeping the cards around.

Sean in Colorado

TLDR Re: drugstore category bonus spend: so I was recently searching y’all’s best category bonus page specifically looking for drugstores*, and besides the Freedom Flex/Unlimited cards for 3x, sure enough, there’s the Citi Custom Cash coming in as a 5x TYP option, assuming of course you aren’t using that card for another category like grocery or dining or what have you, which might be the bigger catch there for some people, along with the $500/statement cap. But yeah, for uncapped drugstore category bonus spend, 3x UR on the Freedom cards take the cake. Bank of America’s Customized cash of course also has a 3% drugstore as a category to activate capped at $2,500/quarter, which for BOA Preferred Rewards folks, could potentially make that the winner. Maybe there are others out there, too, but those are the best cards for drugstore spend I’m aware of.

*The only reason I was looking up drugstores is I’ve been looking into tackling my student loans with the upcoming interest payments starting again soon. I’m deep enough that I’ll probably be paying income based repayments for the next 25 years. Knowing that I’ll still be paying fairly big chunks of cash over that time, I’ve been considering ways to approach funding those payments. *Obligatory* IANAL, nor a tax account as it were and this is not financial advice haha!

So I recently learned about being able to use a 529 Savings Plan (which are educational savings accounts typically used to fund a child’s education), for up to $10k for student loan re-payments. Since I’m middle-aged and very much out of college, but still have loads of student debt, the fact that 529’s are tax-advantaged (read not-taxed if used for appropriate educational expenses) and earn a modest market rate (as with any investment of course, YMMV) and can be used to pay off my monthly student loan payments, are all attractive features. You can join any state’s 529 plan (and in fact I’d encourage anyone to shop around, as benefits/fees/and returns vary, but you could also even get multiple 529 plans from different states!) and use $10k from each for student loans, though there may be state tax deductions (but not federal) or other benefits available through going through your state’s program.

Then I read y’all’s posts on The Gift of College and discovered that in Colorado their gift cards are only available in store at CVS’s (according to G of C’s website anyways, would need to go on a scouting run or two), which unfortunately caps the purchase at $200 with a $5.95 fee (2.975% fee). But for the point of example, say even buying the $200 cards from CVS since Gift of College Gift Cards can be used to fund 529 Savings Plans, with my Freedom Flex at 3x UR, I’d be coming out marginally ahead in the cash back sense, but certainly potentially more if valued for a transfer to say Hyatt, or if we used the 1.25 or 1.5 redemptions when transferred to a Sapphire Preferred or Reserve respectively as a baseline value, both would be coming out ahead.

But for 5x TYP from the Custom Cash, granted capped at $500/month ($6,000/yr)? Even if only valued for its cash back at a flat 5% (or say 5.5%. with the Rewards+ bonus), that’s not a bad return to fund an educational savings account with a credit card that 1) will be a tax-free investment; 2) potentially qualifies as a tax deduction (I think I read in Colorado for single filing is capped around $27k, for joint filing around $31k, for example) and 3) while making a profit on the exchange even with the high percentage of cost on the activation fees on the $200 gift cards.

Now would it be worth it to spend to earn the 2-2.5% in cash back on a Custom Cash for the $200 cards versus using that same spend to earn welcome bonuses? Of course not, hardly anything competes with those returns, but in terms of ongoing spend for the type of investment being created, that’s not bad. Then again, but that’s also certainly not nearly as good as you could do using the same technique with those $500 gift cards (with 1.19% fees) which often come from stores that code as grocery or gas (which-hey- the Custom Cash would also work there, too!), but it did make me go down the rabbit hole of looking for drugstore category bonuses! And has me thinking about keeping my eyes open in other parts of the country for those $500 gift cards as part of a potential longer term investment and tax deduction strategy, all the more so if I’d be able to help fund those accounts at a profit with credit card rewards/sign up bonuses.

Y’all’s site is such a wonderful tool, keep up the great work!


For what it’s worth PayPal seems to be a staple for one of the quarterly 5X categories on the Freedom Flex card (every Q4 from 2019 – 2022). CVS accepts PayPal QR code as a checkout method which means you could earn 5X UR points on up to $1500 of those gift cards from CVS each year with FF assuming that Chase continues to promote PayPal heavily. I’ve never done it myself but DoC has lots of comments of gift card purchases working fine at CVS with PayPal QR checkout.