6 Hacks for Using the Citi ThankYou Points Program

Here's how to get the most out of your Citi rewards credit card points.

If you surveyed a group of people about credit cards, it’s likely they would say pretty much the same thing: Their favorite cards are part of a transferable points program. That’s because these cards tend to have the most flexibility when it comes to redeeming rewards. One of these programs is Citi ThankYou. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)

Over the past several years, Citi has made several changes to the ThankYou program to help it keep up with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards. Two of the most noticeable changes are the selection of credit cards that allow you to earn ThankYou points and the airline transfer partners. Let’s take a look at how you can hack your Citi ThankYou points for maximum value.

1. Transfer Points to Loyalty Partners

One area where the Citi ThankYou program has improved over the past couple of years is with the quality of transfer partners. Unless noted below all partners transfer at a 1:1 ratio.

  • Jetblue (1,000:500)
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Etihad
  • Eva Air
  • Air France/KLM
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Quantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Hilton (1,000:1,500)

While the list of partners continues to grow, not all of them are a good use of your points. To get the most value, you could redeem points for one of these rewards:

Continental U.S. to Hawaii on Singapore Airlines

From the United States, one of the best uses for Singapore Airlines miles is to fly to Hawaii. One-way flights in coach, business class, and first class cost 17,500, 30,000 and 40,000 miles, respectively. Compare this to United Airlines, which charges 22,500, 40,000 and 50,000 miles.

Air France/KLM Flying Blue Promo Awards

One of the best ways to use Flying Blue miles is to book their promo awards. Each month, they release new promo routes and you can save 20% to 50% off normal redemption rates.

Continental U.S. to Mexico on Air France/KLM Flying Blue

Flying Blue includes Mexico in the same flight region as the United States, which means flights cost only 12,500 miles each way in coach.

TransAtlantic in Singapore Suites

If you’re tired of always flying coach, you can splurge and spend 57,375 Singapore Krisflyer Miles to fly Singapore Suites from New York to Frankfurt, Germany. If you’d like to continue, you can go all the way to Singapore for a total of 93,500 miles. But be warned: Flying in coach might never be the same.

Use Etihad Guest Miles from New York to Brussels in Business Class

Most airlines are part of large alliances or have partner airlines. This is great for consumers because it opens up a lot of options when using your miles. If you know where to look, you can find a lot of value when flying. One of the best ways to fly to Europe is to use Etihad Guest miles to fly Brussels Airlines from New York to Brussels. Traveling round-trip in economy will cost you 21,972 miles and business class will be 36,620 miles. If you want a card that earns you direct airline miles, here are our picks for some of the best airline miles credit cards out there.

2. Book Travel on Citi Travel Center

Another way to use your ThankYou points is to book your travel through the Citi Travel Center. This is where the specific card you have will dictate the value you receive. If you have a Citi ThankYou Premier card you can redeem your points for 1.25 cents each. Through July 23, those with a Citi ThankYou Prestige card can redeem points on American Airlines for 1.6 cents each and on all other airlines for 1.33 cents. Afterward, redemptions are 1.33 cents on all airlines. For any card that is not Premier or Prestige, you can book travel at just 1 cent per point.

3. Redeem for Cash

You can redeem your points for cash, but this is a pretty weak valuation. You will only receive 0.5 cents per point, but…

4. Pay Your Mortgage or Student Loans

You’ll receive 1 cent of value when you use your points to pay off your mortgage or student loans.

5. Shopping With Points

Citi has partnered with several retailers, making it possible to shop with your points. However, values fluctuate from 0.6 cents to around 1 cent per point, so unless it’s necessary for you to redeem through shopping, there are better ways to redeem points.

6. Gift Cards

Finally, you can also redeem your points for gift cards for select retailers and restaurants. Most of the time you will be able to receive 1 cent per point with this method.

Earning Citi ThankYou Points

Earning Citi ThankYou points is fairly simple. You can use one of a few different Citi credit cards or have select Citi banking products.

Citi Prestige

When you sign up for the Citi Prestige card, you receive 40,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Then, when you use your card for airfare or hotels, you receive 3 points per dollar. You will also receive 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants and on entertainment. Any other purchase made will earn 1 points per dollar. This card has a steep $450 annual fee, but you will receive several travel benefits, including a $250 air travel credit, which you can use for airfare, upgrades, baggage fees and more. You will also receive a $100 statement credit to cover the cost of either Global Entry or TSA Precheck. If that’s not enough, you also receive your fourth night free when booking hotels through Citi Prestige Concierge. Plus, you can travel in comfort knowing you have complimentary access to more than 900 Priority Pass Select airport lounges.

Keep in mind before signing up for this or any rewards card that your credit will need to be in very good shape to qualify. If you’re not sure where your credit stands you can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, right here on Credit.com.

Citi ThankYou Premier

With the Citi ThankYou Premier card, you receive 30,000 ThankYou points after signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. You then earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel expenses, which includes gas. Plus, you can earn 2x points when you use your card at restaurants and on entertainment. All other purchases will earn 1x points. There is a $95 annual fee, which is waived for the first year.

Citi ThankYou Preferred

If you prefer a card with no annual fee, then the Citi ThankYou Preferred card might be the best fit. You will earn 15,000 ThankYou points after signing up and spending $1,000 in the first three months. When you use this card at restaurants and on entertainment, you receive 2x points. All other purchases earn 1x points. This card also has an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers.

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students

If you’re a college student you can also earn ThankYou points with the Citi ThankYou Preferred card for College Students. With this card, you will earn 2,500 ThankYou points after spending $500 within the first three months. When you use your card at restaurants and on entertainment, you receive 2x points. All other purchases receive 1x points. After signing up for this card you receive an introductory 0% APR for the first seven months on purchases. There is no annual fee to carry this card.

Citi Banking Accounts

While you won’t be able to earn a huge number of points through this method, you can take advantage of the banking relationships you have with Citi. Depending on the product, you could earn up to 19,200 points per year.

Image: freemixer

At publishing time, the Citi Prestige, Citi ThankYou Premier, Citi ThankYou Preferred and Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

 

 

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9 Credit Cards for Cruise Lovers

Want a credit card that helps you navigate the high seas? Here are nine of our favorites.

Cruise lines offer a hassle-free vacation experience for travelers looking to embark on an adventure without worrying about the logistics. Dining, nightlife, luxury amenities and the actual travel are all provided, and often at a lower price than a traditional trip.

To reward loyal cruise customers, many major cruise lines also offer credit cards that can earn cardholders cruise benefits and travel credits. If you’re a frequent cruiser, check out our list of every major cruise credit card (plus two bonus picks for general rewards credit card alternatives).

Remember, before applying for any new credit card, it’s a good idea to check your credit scores to make sure you qualify — particularly for rewards credit cards, which can have higher credit score requirements. You can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, right here on Credit.com. (And here’s a guide to what makes up a good credit score.)

Disney Premier Visa Card

Disney’s Visa credit card earns rewards dollars redeemable for Disney vacations, onboard spending credits and merchandise. Cardholders earn 2% in rewards dollars on gas, groceries, dining and purchases made at Disney locations and 1% rewards on all other purchases. At the time of this writing, Disney also is offering a bonus $200 Disney Gift Card when you spend $500 within three months of opening the card.

Disney customers also can use the card to finance select Disney vacation packages interest-free for six months. On Disney cruises, cardholders will get 10% off photo packages, merchandise and Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island) getaway packages and 20% off massages or facials at an onboard spa.

There’s a $49 annual fee, a 3% foreign transaction fee and a variable APR of 16.49%.

Royal Caribbean Visa Signature Card

Royal Caribbean’s credit card earns points that can be redeemed toward cruises, onboard credits, room upgrades, excursions and discounts. Cardholders earn two points for every dollar spent on qualifying Royal Caribbean purchases and one point for every dollar spent elsewhere. Points have a redemption value of one cent. Royal Caribbean is currently offering 17,500 in bonus points: 10,000 points are earned upon the first transaction, while 7,500 are earned by spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of the card.

There is no annual fee. The APR is a variable 13.49% to 23.49%, and there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Carnival Cruise Credit Card

Carnival’s credit card earns points redeemable for statement credits toward Carnival cruises, airfare, hotel stays and merchandise. Cardholders earn two points for every dollar spent with Carnival and one point for every dollar spent elsewhere. Carnival is offering 10,000 bonus points upon your first purchase or balance transfer. Those points can be redeemed for a credit of up to $100 toward your next cruise purchase. You’ll also earn double points on all purchases aboard a Carnival cruise and one point on all other purchases.

There is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. The APR is a variable 14.49%, 19.49% or 24.49% based on creditworthiness.

Norwegian’s Worldpoints Rewards Credit Card

The Norwegian credit card earns three points for every dollar spent on cruise purchases and one point for every dollar spent elsewhere. Points can be used for stateroom upgrades, cruise reservations and onboard credits, cash, airfare and hotels, car rentals and gift cards. Most reward redemptions value each point at one cent.

As of this writing, Norwegian is offering 10,000 bonus points when you use your card within the first 90 days. And for a limited time, new cardholders can earn an additional 5,000 bonus points when they make at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.

There’s no annual fee. The APR is a variable 13.49% to 23.49%, and there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Princess Cruises Rewards Visa Card

Princess Cruise’s credit card points can be used for cruise rewards, onboard credits and amenities and discounted airfare. Cardholders will earn two points for every dollar spent on Princess purchases and one point for every dollar spent elsewhere. They’re currently offering 5,000 bonus points when you make your first purchase on the card.

There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. There’s a variable APR of 14.49%, 19.49% or 24.49%, based on creditworthiness.

Celebrity Visa Signature Card

The Celebrity Visa Signature Card earns two points for every dollar spent with Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International cruises and Azamara Club Cruises and one point for every dollar spent elsewhere. Right now, Celebrity is offering 10,000 bonus points when you complete a transaction in the first 65 days and a bonus 7,500 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days.

There’s also a premium card that has no foreign transaction fee, 10,000 annual bonus points when you spend at least $10,000 annually, and 50% off second guests at any onboard specialty restaurant. There are also discounts on select excursions, drink packages and vacation packages.

The basic card has no annual fee and a 3% foreign transaction fee, while the premium card costs $69 a year and has no foreign transaction fee. Both cards have a variable APR of 13.49% to 23.49%.

Holland America Cruise Credit Card

Holland America’s credit card earns two points for every dollar spent on Holland America purchases and one point for every dollar spent elsewhere. They’re currently offering 5,000 points upon your first purchase. Points can be redeemed for cruise discounts, onboard amenities and credits, gift cards, merchandise and airfare.

There are no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee with this card. The variable APR is 14.49%, 19.49% or 24.49% based on creditworthiness.

Alternatives to Branded Cruise Cards

Most cruise-branded credit cards earn average points rewards that are tied to specific cruise lines. While you can use the cards for purchases elsewhere, redemption of those points is limited to the cruise line and related purchases. If you’re looking for a travel card with a little more freedom, there are a few great cards out there that can unlock cruise benefits. You can check out our roundup of the best travel rewards credit cards. Here are two of our favorites:

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card features two points per dollar on all dining and travel purchases and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for cash back, merchandise, gift cards and travel reservations. New applicants receive 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. Points earn an additional 25% value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

There is a $95 annual fee for this card (which is waived the first year) and no foreign transaction fees. The APR is a variable 16.49% to 23.49%

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card earns miles that can be redeemed for most travel expenses, including cruises. Cardholders earn two miles per dollar on all transactions, and each mile is worth one cent. New cardholders receive 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 within 90 days of opening their account. In addition, cardholders receive a 5% rebate on the miles they redeem.

There is an $89 annual fee (waived the first year) and no foreign transaction fees. There is a variable APR of 16.49%, 20.49% or 23.49% based on creditworthiness.

At publishing time, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Image: michaeljung

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5 New Hyatt Hotels You Can Visit in 2017 for Free

These five Hyatt Hotels are brand new and waiting for you to visit!

If you have been trying to figure out your next vacation destination, it’s understandable that you might be a little overwhelmed. There are so many amazing places around the world to experience.

If you prefer to stay at Hyatt hotels, we put together a list of five new properties, in highly sought-after locations, that you can visit with your points in 2017.

1. Park Hyatt Bangkok

If you are thinking about heading to Asia, then a great option would be Thailand and the much-anticipated Park Hyatt Bangkok. This property was originally scheduled to open a few years ago, but delays set it back. Now it will officially open in May 2017.

This hotel is located in the upscale Lumpini district in the embassy complex. In addition to over 200 rooms, it will also have a sprawling rooftop area called the Penthouse Bar and Grill. This will include a restaurant and a speakeasy bar. You will also find a fine dining restaurant and lounge on the main level.

This will be a category 5 property, costing 20,000 points per night.

2. Hyatt House Chelsea

Heading to New York City this summer? How about a stay at the Hyatt House Chelsea? This hotel is located just blocks away from Madison Square Garden, plus it’s within walking distance of the Chelsea Garment District. To make your stay a little more comfortable, you can choose from either standard studio hotel rooms or residential suites with kitchens. This is perfect if you are planning a longer extended vacation.

The Hyatt House Chelsea is a category 5 property, requiring 20,000 points per night.

3. Hyatt Regency Cartagena

For a long time, Colombia was tarnished by the image of drugs and criminal activity. Today, most of the problems have been eliminated and the country is turning into a hotspot for tourism.

One of the most popular draws to Colombia beyond Bogotá is Cartagena. This coastal city is rich with history and amazing food. It’s also home to the brand-new Hyatt Regency Cartegena, the first Hyatt property in Colombia. It’s located right by the beach and easily accessible to Categena’s Old Town.

The Hyatt Regency Cartagena is a category 2 property, requiring just 8,000 points per night.

4. Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa

If you are planning a getaway for some golf and a spa day, then a great destination is the Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Spa, in Arizona. Guest rooms have a bungalow feel to them, plus you will be able to enjoy one of the three different pools or the Palo Verde Spa & Apothecary. But the best part is the property’s mountain backdrop.

The Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Spa is a category 5 property, requiring 20,000 points per night.

5. Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach 

If a Hawaii vacation is calling your name, then make sure you make a stop at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach. This is the latest addition to the Hyatt Centric brand, located right on Waikiki Beach. After a long hike up Diamond Head Trail, you can come back and relax by the pool in one of the private cabanas.

The Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach is a category 5 property, requiring 20,000 points per night.

Earning Free Nights With Hyatt

One of the best ways for someone to earn points and eventually free nights with Hyatt is through the Hyatt Credit Card. When you sign up you will receive two free nights at any property worldwide after spending $2,000 in the first three months. If you choose to add an authorized user to your account, you will receive 5,000 points after they make their first purchases within three months. (You can learn more about the ins and outs of adding an authorized user here.)

When using this card for purchases at Hyatt hotels, you will receive three points. You will also receive two points at restaurants and on airfare booked directly through the airlines. All other purchases will receive one point.

This card does come with an annual fee of $75, but you will receive a free night at any category 1 to 4 property on your anniversary. (Not sure if the fee is worth it? Check out our guide to annual fees to help you decide.) Plus, if you are planning to visit one of the international destinations we mentioned, there are no foreign transaction fees.

Remember, before applying for this or any credit card, it’s a good idea to check your credit scores to confirm that you qualify. You can get your two free credit reports, updated every 14 days, right here on Credit.com.

Want more hotel stay hacks? Check out our hacks for free nights at Marriott hotels.

Image: andresr

 

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5 New IHG Hotels You Can Visit in 2017 for Free

Here's how to use your IHG Rewards Club points for free nights at these new hotels.

If you’re planning a vacation this year and are a fan of Intercontinental Hotel Group hotels, we’ve got some good news for you. The firm has recently opened five new hotels around the world — and, if you play your points right, you could score a stay in one free of charge. (Psst … if you’re trying to travel on a dime, we’ve got 28 more ways to save for this year’s big adventure right here.)

Here’s how many IHG Rewards Club points you’ll need to stay in one or all of its new additions absolutely free.

1. Hotel Indigo Lower East Side

If you will be traveling to New York City, then make sure you plan a stay at Hotel Indigo Lower East Side. This hotel is situated in the middle of one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods. During your stay you can enjoy a swim in the hotel’s rooftop pool, or even join a yoga class while enjoying the top-floor views.

A free night at the Hotel Indigo Lower East side will cost 50,000 points per night.

2. Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong

Located in the old Joo Chiat police station, the Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong is perfect for travelers that want to have easy access to everything the city has to offer. Grab a bite to eat at the hotel’s Baba Chews Bar and Eatery after you relax in the hotel’s infinity pool situated on the roof.

Free nights at the Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong will cost 40,000 points per night.

3. InterContinental Beijing Sanlitun

During your next trip to Beijing, stay at the InterContinental Beijing Sanlitun, located in the middle of the city’s entertainment district. You will be situated close to some of the best bars, restaurants, and markets that Beijing has to offer. Within the hotel you will experience five-star service, with multiple bars and restaurants featuring spectacular views of the city, and rooms that will make you feel rested and ready to go each morning.

Free nights at the InterContinental Beijing Sanlitun will cost 50,000 points per night.

4. Crowne Plaza Resort Sanya Bay, China

The Crowne Plaza Resort Sanya Bay is located in the largest of China’s Hainan Island bays. This hotel’s tropical location is perfect for anyone who might be in town for pleasure or business. You will be a short ride away from both Nanshan Temple and Mingzhu Plaza. At the hotel you will find both an indoor and outdoor pool, and also a natural hot spring.

The Crowne Plaza Resort Sanya Bay will cost 25,000 points per night.

5. Holiday Inn Manchester — City Centre

Anyone visiting Manchester, England, will have an abundance of hotels to choose from. However, if you want to be located right in the middle of city center, the new Holiday Inn Manchester might be the way to go. This hotel is located in near proximity to many of the city’s biggest venues including O2 Apollo, Manchester Area, and Bridgewater Hall.

The Holiday Inn Manchester – City Centre will cost 30,000 points per night.

How to Earn More IHG Rewards Club Points

Anyone looking to increase their balance of IHG Rewards Club points should look no further than the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card from Chase. When you sign up for this rewards credit card, you’ll receive 60,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months. If you’d like to add an authorized user to your account, you’ll earn an extra 5,000 points after they make a purchase in the first three months.

When you use the card at IHG hotels, you will receive 5x points. Purchases made at grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants will all earn 2x points. All other purchases will earn 1x point for every dollar spent. This card has no foreign transaction fees, but it does come with an annual fee of $49, which is waived the first year.

Also, you’ll receive a certificate for a free night at any IHG hotel on the anniversary of opening the card, plus you’ll automatically receive IHG Platinum Elite status. This will give you 10% of your points back on redemption. It touts a 16.49% to 23.49% variable annual percentage rate (APR), depending on creditworthiness. (You can get an idea of where you might fall by viewing two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

Of course, if IHG isn’t your chain of choice, there are plenty of other hotel rewards credit cards out there that could score you a free stay. (You can find a few more solid credit cards for hotel hoppers here.) And, if you don’t have a chain of choice, you might want to opt for a general-purpose travel rewards credit card whose points and miles are good for any hotel or airline purchase. Just be sure to pay your balances off on all above in full — otherwise, you’ll lose those precious points to interest.

Happy travels!

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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The Amped-Up Amex Platinum Card: How Does It Compare to the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

American Express just upgraded its already stacked Platinum Card. Does it now top Chase Sapphire Reserve?

For years, the American Express Platinum Card has provided a wide range of travel benefits and luxury perks to its cardholders. But recently, there’s been increased competition from travel-centric credit cards entering the game or increasing their benefits to take some of American Express’ market share.

One of the biggest new players is the Chase Sapphire Reserve (you can read our full review here), which has been popular for its extensive travel perks.

Presumably to compete, American Express is expanding its benefits, offering a wider range of rewards that kick in March 30. So how does it stack up to the Chase Sapphire Reserve? Here we compare each card so you can decide which one is best for jet-setters.

Earning & Redeeming Points

Both cards earn points as they are used. Users can redeem points for gift cards, merchandise or travel.

With the Platinum Card’s newly enhanced features, cardholders earn five points for every dollar spent on airfare and eligible hotels using the American Express Travel platform (they can also book directly with the airline). That’s on top of the existing two points per dollar spent on other eligible travel purchases and one point per dollar spent on everything else. American Express offers a bonus 75,000 points if you spend $5,000 during the first three months after receiving the card.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card earns three points per dollar spent on travel and restaurants and one point per dollar spent on everything else. Chase offers 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. On top of that, you get 50% additional value when you redeem your points for travel.

Travel Perks Included

American Express has enhanced its already extensive travel benefits.

The card will now come with $200 in annual Uber credits, earned by linking the card to your Uber account. The Global Lounge Collection has expanded, and cardholders get access to more than 1,000 airport lounges in 120 countries, including the luxury Centurion Lounge. There’s also a new Global Dining Collection, which provides exclusive reserved seating at culinary events hosted by world-renowned chefs. The By Invitation Only program has also grown to include more exclusive experiences like access to the Grand Prix de Monaco and trips to French wine country.

The Platinum Card’s existing benefits were already impressive. American Express offers a $200 annual credit for airline fees such as checked bags or in-flight meals and a $100 credit toward a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application. Cardholders get competitive hotel rates and benefits (according to American Express, worth an average $550 annual value) and a complimentary room upgrade and $75 hotel credit when cardholders book two consecutive nights at a hotel through American Express Travel. Cardholders can also get VIP status with Starwood and Hilton hotels and select rental car agencies.

Chase’s existing travel features include $300 in annual statement credits for travel purchases and $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck applications. Plus, cardholders get access to more than 900 airport lounges and special car rental privileges. Cardholders also receive benefits at The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection properties.

Both cards come with concierge services that can assist with travel bookings, dining reservations, entertainment and sporting events. Each card also provides many travel perks standard, including car rental protection, trip cancellation protection and no foreign transaction fees.

Heavy Metal Card Design

American Express is upgrading the Platinum Card to a new metal design. The Chase Sapphire Reserve already came in a “hand-crafted embedded metal” design.

The Cost

The new Platinum Card also comes with a new annual fee of $550 — a $100 increase. It’s also not technically a credit card as cardholders are expected to pay their balance in full each month. As a result, there are no interest charges. (We explain the difference between a charge card and a credit card here.)

The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee is $450, and has an annual percentage rate (APR) of 16.49% to 23.49%.

How They Stack Up

Both cards have strong signup bonuses, and the Platinum Card’s five points policy is tempting, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve likely has the best long-term point value. Cardholders earn triple points on dining, and most cardholders will likely dine out more than they fly. In addition, redeeming points for travel through Chase gets you a bonus 50% value for every point.

As for travel perks, results are mixed. The Platinum Card’s $200 travel credits only apply to airline fees, while Chase’s $300 credit can be applied to any travel cost. The Platinum Card’s Uber credit is nice, but only if you use Uber. However, the Platinum Card gives access to exclusive dining and travel experiences that Chase doesn’t provide.

Another major consideration that you must pay the Platinum Card’s balance in full each month. If you need the ability to carry a balance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers that option. (Carrying a balance is, of course, an expensive option, with that APR between 16.49% and 23.49%.)

In the end, the better card depends on how you plan to use it. The Platinum Card may be worth the price if you can pay your balance off each month, if you want access to private exclusive events and travel and if you ride Uber frequently. If you want a simpler, more practical credit card that still provides big travel perks, the Chase Sapphire Reserve may be the way to go.

You’ll need a strong credit score to qualify for either card. Before you apply, you can check two of your scores free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

Image: Weekend Images Inc. 

At publishing time, the American Express Platinum card is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

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Getting The Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card Made My Credit Score Go Up By Almost 40 Points

To help make a family vacation more affordable, I got the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card and it surprisingly boosted my credit score. Here's how.

I’m planning a family vacation to Hawaii for myself, my husband and our daughter for later this year. Although I’m typically not much of a travel hacker, my goal is to get the airfare and lodging to be as inexpensive as possible, which is what lead me to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card.

This credit card offers a very large welcome bonus to eligible new cardholders (100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases with the card within the first three months after account opening). I wanted this card in particular because points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel. In other words, if I spend the 100,000 points on travel, they will yield $1,500 in travel reward value.

Applying for the New Card

I was fairly certain my application would be approved. I knew my credit score at the time was somewhere around 740 or 750, depending on the source. I know it could be even higher, but at this level I don’t worry about it too much. I use credit cards for almost everything I buy and, although I’m not perfect — I do carry a balance now and then — most months I pay my credit card balances in full. I usually see high utilization reflected in my credit scores, though, because the balances are often reported before my payment due dates. But just like I expected, my card was approved. But what I didn’t expect was what would happen to my credit scores.

The Thing That Sent My Credit Score Skyrocketing

I knew applying for a new credit card would knock a few points off my scores. What I didn’t expect was the very high credit limit ($12,000) on my new Reserve card. The credit limits on my other cards range from $1,900 to $7,200.

When I checked my credit after receiving the card (which I did for free on Credit.com), I was pleasantly surprised. My credit score had gone up 37 points!

I was quite suddenly within reach of the elite 800+ club, and the only significant change was my overall amount of available credit, and the lower utilization ratio that resulted.

Let’s make sure that’s plain as day. Lowering my credit utilization ratio to 12% caused my credit score to rise by 37 points.

One of the keys to excellent credit is having low utilization — meaning keeping your debt levels low in relation to your overall credit limit. Experts recommend keeping that rate at 30%, ideally 10%, of your overall credit limit. So, if you have a credit card with a $1,000 limit and you charge $900, your utilization would be reported as 90%. Bumping my credit limit up helped me improve my scores. But remember: Just because you have a higher limit doesn’t mean you should be spending more, especially if you can’t afford to pay off the balance in full.

What else impacts your credit? Using the free credit scores tool on Credit.com, I found out what other factors I had working for and against me.

On-Time Payments: 100% (excellent). No work to do here. I automate many payments, and use a bill pay app to help me make sure I maintain a good payment history (this accounts for 35% of your credit scores).

Oldest Credit Line: 12 years (good). My student loans from the ‘80s and ’90s finally aged off, lowering my average file age. I’ll need to hold on to my oldest accounts to improve this factor. Also, the average age of all of my accounts is just five years, pulled down by my new Chase account.

Utilization: 12% (good). To lower this, especially after holiday spending, I plan to focus on making my credit card payments by the statement closing date on each card. That way, the balance reported will be zero.

Recent Inquiries: 1 (good). This was the Chase card I recently applied for, and I know the inquiry counts against my score for one year (and ages off my credit report after two years). I’ll avoid applying for new credit for the time being.

New Accounts: 2 (good to average). I recently refinanced my mortgage. The inquiry was more than six but less than 12 months ago.

Before You Get a New Credit Card

Are you considering getting a new card? Well, first up, you’ll want to see what your credit scores are so you have an idea of the types of cards you may qualify for.

Needless to say, so-called “elite” credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve would likely not be available to me if I had a low credit score, as you typically need good or excellent credit to qualify for rewards credit cards. Because my credit is already healthy, I can take advantage of deals that are only available to consumers with good or excellent credit. In this case, a great credit score translates to being able to have the chance to secure $1,500 in travel perks.

Beyond that, you’ll want to look at the details of any card you’re considering. Is there an annual fee and, if so, would it fit into your budget? (The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a $450 annual fee, for example.) And think about your personal habits. Do you tend to carry a balance? If so, a rewards credit card may not be right for you, as you’ll likely lose out any benefits of the card due to paying those interest charges.

As for that trip to Hawaii, I transferred my Ultimate Rewards points from two lower-tier Chase cards over to the Reserve account where they have more value. Once I get the welcome bonus, I’ll have more than 200,000 points to shop with. Not enough for an all-expenses paid week vacation for three, but I’ve still got plenty more time to earn and save.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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The post Getting The Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card Made My Credit Score Go Up By Almost 40 Points appeared first on Credit.com.

‘Air Rage’ Is a Thing & It’s Happening More Often

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Tap! Tap! Tap!

Hear that? It’s the sound of the passenger behind you banging on your seat, and if you end up in an argument over their refusal to stop, you wouldn’t be alone. A new study by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an airline industry body, found that “unruly passenger incidents,” as they were described in a recent press release, are on the rise.

In reviewing 10,854 incidents reported to IATA by airlines worldwide last year, they found the majority of disruptive behavior involved “verbal abuse, failure to follow lawful crew instructions and other forms of anti-social behavior.” A vast number (11%) of the reports detailed “physical aggression towards passengers or crew or damage to the aircraft,” while drug or alcohol intoxication, the majority of which were “consumed prior to boarding or from personal supply without knowledge of the crew,” affected about 23% of the cases, IATA said.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA director general and CEO, called on airlines and airports to ratify the Montreal Protocol 2014, which he said aims to streamline the legalities of handling unruly passengers. “To date, six states have ratified the Provision needed in order to have a consistent global approach to this issue,” de Juniac said.

IATA also supports a code of practice that focuses on preventing passenger intoxication, especially excessive drinking, prior to boarding. Ideally, staff in airport bars and shops should be “trained to serve alcohol responsibly” and take steps to prevent binge drinking, IATA said.

Though we can’t guarantee that you’ll have a smooth flight, there are some ways to enhance the experience, at least from your wallet’s perspective. A good place to start: travel rewards cards. Not only do some of these bad boys waive irksome baggage fees, if you play your cards right and manage them responsibly, you may earn rewards to redeem for free flights and upgrades. Just remember, a good credit score is your golden ticket to the world of rewards, so if your credit’s not up to snuff, it’s time to start beefing it up. You can see where your finances currently stand by viewing a free snapshot of your credit report on Credit.com.

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United Has a New Fee Policy for Changing Awards Flights

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If you’re enrolled in United Airlines’ MileagePlus rewards program, there is a new fee policy going into effect soon that you want to know about.

If you need to change or cancel a flight booked using rewards, the fee will be based on how close your new travel date is to your original travel date, as well as your MileagePlus status. Timeline dates are broken into two tiers: 61 or more days and 60 days or less.

For example, if you’re a general member, you’ll pay $75 if you change or cancel with redeposit 61 or more days prior to original departure date, and $125 if you change or cancel 60 days or less prior to the original departure date. However, if you’re at the highest tiers — Premier 1K and United Global Services — you won’t pay these fees, no matter when you change or cancel your travel plans.

Premium Platinum members can also escape the fee if they change or cancel with redeposit 61 or more days prior to original departure date. After that, they’re subject to a $50 fee. Premier Gold members will pay $25 if they change 61 days or more before departure, and $75 within 60 days or less of departure; Premier Silver members will pay $50 and $100, respectively.

These changes apply to all MileagePlus members and will be implemented on all flights using awards booked on or after October 6, 2016. (Previously, fees were based on a window of 21 days from departure.) Of course, certain restrictions and additional fees may apply, so you’ll want to check with your travel agent or a United representative before making any changes to your travel plans.

You Can Cut Some Travel-Related Fees

If you’re hoping to save on your travels, becoming a reward member of the airline and any hotels you frequent may be a good starting point. Beyond that, you may want to consider a travel credit card (you can read our roundup of the best travel credit cards in America here). Many airline credit cards offer free checked bags and other perks, while some hotel-specific cards offer benefits for their properties. Keep in mind, these cards are ideal for people who can pay their balances in full each billing cycle. Otherwise, you’ll lose most of the benefits to paying interest.

Before you apply, you’ll want to consider what type of card will benefit you the most for your travels as well as to make sure the annual fees that may be associated with it are worthwhile. It’s also a good idea to review your credit before applying, as many reward credit cards require a good credit score to qualify. By seeing if you fall in that category before applying, you’ll avoid getting hit with a hard inquiry that could hurt your score even if you don’t wind up with the credit card. To see where your credit currently stands, you can view your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.

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Alaska Airlines Sweetened its Travel Rewards Credit Card

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Alaska Airlines has sweetened the terms on its travel rewards credit card.

The carrier bumped up the bonus miles it’s offering its new Visa signature card holders to 30,000 after a qualifying spend ($1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening, according to its website.) It also did away with foreign transaction fees for all card holders. The changes took effect June 1.

Under the rewards program, Alaska Airlines cardholders get a free checked bag for themselves and up to six other passengers in their reservation. They earn three times the miles on Alaska purchases, one mile for every dollar spent on every day purchases, and receive an annual companion fare from $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees starting from $22).

The card has a $75 annual fee and a purchase annual percentage rate between 12.49% and 19.49%, depending on creditworthiness.

This credit card program is issued and administered by Bank of America.

Airline Credit Cards 101

If you’re shopping for a new airline credit card or travel rewards card, it’s a good idea to consider how often you travel and whether you tend to patronize a particular carrier. If you do fly a single carrier, or its partners, that company’s mileage card can be the right choice for you. But if you don’t have a hub in your area or your flights are varied, you might to look into general travel rewards credit cards.

You can also consider maximizing rewards by accumulating airline miles via loyalty programs, and complementing that balance by earning credit card rewards that can be transferred to those airlines.

If you’re in the market for a new credit card, it’s a good idea to check your credit before you apply, as a good credit score can help you qualify for better terms and rates. You can see where you currently stand by viewing two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.

If your credit is looking lackluster, you can try to improve your scores by disputing errors on your credit reports, paying down high credit card balances and limiting new credit inquiries.

At publishing time, Bank of America credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

 

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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