No, not the actual unicorn. I’m not that crazy, though one of my readers said that sometimes I come across as certifiably insane. Can you believe it? Oh no she didn’t!
Anyway, back to “unicorn” analogy. What I mean by that is spotting a sign-up bonus you can’t get with any other bank. And I’m not just talking about specific currency. United miles can only be earned via Chase cards. But if you mostly need domestic redemptions on United Airlines, you can get them via other flexible points programs like Thank You, SPG and Membership Rewards. You might prefer Hyatt hotels, but it’s not a deal breaker to stay in other brands or even go through sites like VRBO and AirBnB.
So, we are looking for something super valuable, specific to your unique travel pattern. First, you might read this post with more info on the subject. As I’ve mentioned earlier, if you only get two new cards per year (in your name), none of this applies. However, if you are like me and get 10+ bonuses in 24 months, right now, you might be scrambling to decide which Chase card should be your (potentially) last victim. My reader Doug gave a tip that you might want to reduce your Chase credit limit before applying in order to increase your chances of approval. Just send them secure message through your profile.
Let me walk you through my reasoning process and hopefully, it will help you with your own dilemma. You can’t get the bonus unless it’s been 24 months since you’ve last received it, so I’ll list the cards I’m eligible for:
I’m technically eligible for all of them, but don’t feel comfortable using a business card for non-business expenses in order to satisfy sign-up bonus requirements. Chase Ink Plus is the most tempting of the bunch, but I’ll have to reluctantly pass.
Personal hotel cards
Check my list for reference
1) Chase Marriott Premier Visa
Pros: I’m a fan of Marriott brand. Also, there is no need to worry about expiration of certificates because you receive points instead. The current offer is quite attractive since you can get 87,500 points.
Cons: Nice properties are very expensive on points. There aren’t that many Marriott beachfront hotels in Florida, and those are the most desirable for my family. Also, I still need to use IHG and Wyndham points, so would be accumulating Marriott currency speculatively.
I’m not “married” to any particular hotel chain and as long as the room is clean, I’m perfectly fine. I can always sign up for cards that offer Hilton points down the road, and there are plenty of those available via Citi and Amex. Last, but not least, the fee of $85 on Marriott offer is not waived.
2) Chase Fairmont Visa Signature
Pros: This is a good time to consider the card since it will most likely be discontinued due to Accor brand takeover of Fairmont. So, it’s probably now or never. Fairmont has some very nice family-friendly properties, specifically in Maui and Big Island. Also, the offer has all kinds of goodies bundled in, like suite upgrades, free food etc.
Cons: I’m not going to Maui or Big Island within the next year. Or any other place that happens to have a Fairmont property. Florida has exactly zilch and if our plans fall through, I would be in a pickle.
Certificates expire within a year and spending requirement is quite high at $3,000 in 3 months. That’s a lot of “investment” considering I will only get two nights out of it. Once again, if I was going to Maui, then I would be all over this offer. But I’m not planning such a major trip just to take advantage of hotel bonus (read my post on Fairmont card)
3) Chase Hyatt Signature Visa
Pros: I already got this card in my name and have two night certificates in the account. If my husband applied, this could extend our hotel stay to 4 nights instead. Also, he happens to have Diamond status which comes with all kinds of perks like free breakfast, late checkout and upgrades.
This is the perfect time to apply if I want to take advantage of the royal treatment I’ve heard so much about. Also, Hyatt Visa comes with a complimentary Category 1-4 hotel night when you renew the card annually and pay $75 fee. It could give us a nice weekend getaway between two certs.
Cons: I have a lot of hotel stays planned already, and I’m not sure my husband could take two more days off. Since certificates expire after 12 months, it would put pressure on us to burn them whether we want to or not. Plus, as I’ve said, I still need to use my stash of various hotel points. Also, hotels we want that happen to be a Category 4 (or lower) now, could become more expensive in a near future.
Verdict: Pass (reluctantly)
Personal airline cards
1) Chase British Airways Visa Signature
Pros: Some very good deals on non-stop American Airlines flights (a partner), especially when visiting hubs like New York, Dallas etc. Some excellent deals from Miami when flying to Caribbean. This program lets you cancel and re-deposit tickets with very low penalty.
It also allows to pull miles in a household account, which can come in handy. I could also use Avios for non-stop flights from Orlando to Dublin or Fort Myers to Dusseldorf at a cost of 25,000 miles one-way. That compares favorably to other programs. Read this post for more on Avios
Cons: I’m mostly interested in flights to Caribbean, and Miami is 4.5 hours from our house. That’s too far according to my husband. BA could add fuel surcharges to Europe flights at any time, so I wouldn’t bank on me being able to get good value on those routes. When it comes to New York and other AA hubs, I can usually find discount tickets on other carriers.
For the most part, AAdvantage is a better fit for my family, and I can still apply for AA-earning cards through Citi. Speaking of, the value of Avios is dwindling because sAAver availability on American is tough to find, especially when looking for four seats. And those are the only tickets bookable with Avios. Annual fee of $95 is not waived on this particular offer. But the biggest con is: I don’t see me using these miles within the next three years.
2) Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier
Pros: Southwest program is incredibly useful for my family. On average, you get 1.6 cents per point on certain fares, if booked in advance. We flew Orlando – Jamaica and Orlando-Buffalo for only 9,000 points roundtrip per person. Southwest fills the gap on routes that cost 25,000 miles via other programs. Plus, no need to drive to Miami in order to utilize Avios for Caribbean.
I don’t have to worry about award availability, bags fly free, and there is no fee for cancellations. Since my kids are in school, that’s important. In addition, I’m pretty confident I could use the points within two years. If not, there is always a possibility to redeem them for various valuable gift cards like Amazon on 1:1 basis. The credit card has to be open, though, in order to utilize the gift card option.
There are only two ways to get Rapid Rewards points: transfer from Ultimate Rewards and via Southwest co-branded cards. I can’t apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus, so this could be my last chance to load up on this currency. I don’t plan to go for Companion pass, but if you are, it would definitely yield tremendous return.
Hot tip: There is a roundabout way to maximize value on Southwest flights. I saw somebody mention this in the comments section of Doctorofcredit. Basically, you redeem Flexperks points for any Southwest flight in order to hit the cutoff (20,000 points=$400, 40,000 points=$800).
Then you cancel the fare and use the credit for the flight you actually need. Southwest doesn’t charge penalties, so there is no loss. Read about Flexperks-earning card here It is on my “keeper” list, and could work very well for those who fly Southwest or buy revenue tickets on a regular basis. Watch for this offer to increase around the time of Olympics.
Cons: The annual fee of $99 on Southwest card is not waived.
Verdict: I think I found my unicorn.
Right now I’m waiting to get email invitation link from my sister-in-law. I actually totally forgot that she has this card. Can you believe it? My husband’s uncle even used direct link when she could have collected 5,000 points on referral. If you are planning on applying for Premier version with $99 fee, let me know and I can send you an invite. Email me at email@example.com or leave a comment.
It could take up to 7 days for you to receive it, so keep that in mind. Anything she gets will probably be used for my family’s trips, so in a way, you would be indirectly supporting the blog. Of course, feel free to check this Flyertalk thread for links and referrals on Premier, Plus ($69 fee) or business version of Southwest card.
If you switch credit cards constantly, this could be your last chance to pick up a co-branded Chase bonus offer. I recommend you choose wisely, and select a card that will benefit you the most in the short term. If you need hotel points in a specific program, go for hotel card. If miles it is you are after, go after mileage bonus. If you are not sure, go West. Southwest. Have a business? Get Chase Ink Plus while you still can.
Readers, what is your Chase unicorn?
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