Best Churn of 2017: The MLA

Edit 27 Mar 2018: Looks like MLA Shutdown for Citi and Bank of America

Wow, 2017 was certainly an unpredictable year! The greatest surprise gift was the MLA granting Military complete fee wavers for every Citibank, Chase, and Bank of America product! Now for all of you churning virgins out there that have a free and clear record, you can maximize all the Chase cards with no annual fees. I for one wish I was in this position, If I could do it all over again I would get these Chase cards in this order:

  1. The Chase Saphire Reserve for its annual $300 payout on all things travel related. Use this link now to get 50k MR points for $4k spend in 90 days. The $450 is waived with the MLA!
  2. Next card is the Marriott card because of the free annual night that you will get with the $95 MLA fee waiver. Use this link to get 80K points after $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from your account opening, transferable to Ritz and SPG (3:1).
  3. Next 5/24 restricted card is the Freedom which will get you 5x UR points you can transfer to CSR to spend on travel at 1.5 cents (7.5% cashback) or to other travel partners. Use this link here for 17.5K: 15K after $500 spend in 3 months + 2.5K for adding authorized user . I would transfer the points to Hyatt or United to coincide with the next two cards.
  4. The United Club card would be next for me, this would give me Star Alliance Lounge Access such as the ANA lounge in Okinawa when flying Japanese domestic. The $450 annual fee would be waived, and they are offering 50,000 United Miles. (No referral link). This combined with the 67,500 from the Freedom and CSR as converted UR points, would give you round trip to anywhere in the world.
  5. The last of the 5/24 cards would be the Chase Southwest Card for the 40K after $1K spend in 3 months then 6k every year on renewal. The $99 annual fee is waived per MLA. (Link to the 50K offer here (thanks Dan!))

Now that you are over 5/24 you would be ineligible to apply for many of the fun Chase products, until the 24 month window passes. Resistance and complaining are futile as even Chase Private Clients are unable to bypass this rule! The best thing to do is to hit the very few 5/24 exempt Chase Products:

  1. First 5/24 exempt Chase card is the Ritz Carlton Card for the sweet $300 travel waiver as well as the two free nights with $4k spend. The better benefit is the $100 on Visa Flight Discount on 2+ domestic tickets. This means round trips ORD to MSP for $35.40 a segment! ($450 annual fee waived)
  2. Next card is the British Airways for 100k Avios if that comes around any time soon. This would be useful for both Domestic Short Haul American Airlines at 7,500 Avios a segment as well as 25.5k business class to Europe. ($95 fee waived per MLA)
  3. Chase IHG card for the 60k points and the free annual night. (Annual fee waived per MLA)
  4. The Hyatt card for the 45,000 points. Use this link here if your thinking about applying! It is a very reasonable $2k spend for this one. You will also get a free night every year.

Now what about the banished 5/25 exceeded peoples like myself? Well I mapped out my plan of *gasp* closing some cards before the annual fee hits in order to open them exactly 24 months after I had applied to get both the MLA waiver as well as the initial bonus again:

Chase Product Opened Fee Date Due Fate
British Airways (Me) Oct in 2015 $95 Oct in 2017 Closed, Reapply
British Airways (Wife) Sep in 2017 $0 N/A MLA
Ritz-Carlton (Me) July in 2015 $450 July in 2018 Close in July, Reapply
Ritz-Carlton (Wife) Nov in 2017 $0 N/A MLA
World of Hyatt (Me) Aug in 2015 $75 Aug in 2018 Close on Aug 18, Reapply
World of Hyatt (Wife) July in 2017 $75 July in 2018 Close in Jul 18, Reapply 2019
IHG Aug in 2017 $49 Aug in 2018 Close in Aug 18, Reapply 2019
All cards opened that are not 5/24 exempt Keep Open

For example the rules for the Ritz, BA, Hyatt, IHG read:

This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

I am going to keep any cards that are free or not 5/24 exempt open such as my Marriott Card, Ink Plus, United Club card, and Amazon because there would be no benefit in closing them. Also I think my Marriott cards will become some other product after the merger is completed.

Please use the refer links to keep my hobby going! Happy New Year!

-Derp

 

Churning With BitCoin?

I have been known to make questionable decisions for the sake of fake internet hotel, credit card and airline currency. Now I bring the not recommended idea of doing the Brad Wilson Churn with Cryptocurrency! Regardless of how you feel about the future of BitCoin, this is an excellent way to do some manufactured spending with CoinBase. Please open an account here to get $10 in bitcoin if you don’t have an account.

 

Once you open an account you can fund it by Credit Card for a fee of 3.99% which is half of the 8% premium that BGASC.COM charged me. I do this in conjunction with a high initial offer card such as the AmEx Biz card:

Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases on the Business Platinum Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.

So let’s say you drop $20,000 on a single bitcoin (depending on the price right now), you get 75,000 MR for the initial sign up, then the 1.5 MR per $1 kicks in for being an over $5k transaction. This is a total of 105k MR worth $1,312.50 at 1.25 cents per point via Schwab. This one BitCoin would cost you $20k as well as the $798 transaction fee. If you cash out all the points earned you actually paid $19,485.50 for the coin, and if you immediately sell the coin for the $20,000 you paid for it then you get sweet earnings of $514.50!

Now what you will inevitably get caught up in is not selling right away, and going on a wild up and down ride with the bitcoin prices. If you are a true believer and think this is the future then hold on to your $20,000 bitcoin and retire on that. If your not feeling that way then go ahead and sell the coin at exactly 3.99% over what you paid ($20,798) to cover the transaction fee. Then pay your credit card bill.

I DO NOT CONDONE anyone use gold, bitcoin, litecoin, giftcards, or other cash equivalents to hit minimum spends. I have stupidly done it with Krugerrands back in my youth (1 year ago), but not at the $20,000 level! This is just a novelty way to do some MSing if you are coming close to years end. Please use my links, and let me know how it goes!

-Derp

Seaman Timmy’s Castaway Report: Issue #1 Philadelphia

There is a pretty pretentious travel guide out there that I get for free with my US Bank Altitude Card. It has some serious baller destinations with commentary on first world problems experienced at the fine hotels and resorts around the world. For those hardier individuals, such as us AD members, we can weather such disappointments as the butler too too long to get our 18 year old single malt scotch refilled.

I want to present the opposite kind of report where you travel for free and really maximize your 2.5 days a month of leave a month. I present to you the “Seaman Timmy’s Castaway Report”, a guide for those Active Duty Members that prepare well, and will be greatly rewarded in free travel and free food along the way. Save your hard earned cash for the destination and not waste a dime on just getting there.

I chose Philadelphia, PA because it is often overlooked as one of the great transit hubs to the East coast. From here you can take the Amtrak straight north to Manhattan or way south to Washington D.C. It is a very historic city loaded with museums and a testament to Ben Franklin’s experiment on what 200 years of compound interest will do for a city.

Getting there

From Chicago there is plenty of Avios Reward space on American Airlines. I was able to get the Chase British Airways Card which came with 100,000 Avios miles good for 13 segments on American Airlines. The $95 annual fee for the card was waived per the MLA, and the account was opened right after the 20 September 2017 inclusion date! You can also transfer American Express MR points or Chase UR points to Avios making it a perfect place to dump points.

Checking the ba.com site we can see plenty of segments open for ORD to PHL. I tend to book one way segments in order to easily search dates:

The return trip on a week day are wide open as well:

Now you can’t beat the price for these segments, just 7,500 Avios and $5.60:

If you were to book the same flight using cash we are looking at $729 for the same trip with cash. You are getting 4.8 cents per Avios!

Once you book the flight, you will notice the British Airways number gets hard coded on the reservation. It might be worth while to recode your reservation with a AAdvantage account number using the Finnair Modification Trick. This keeps all my reservations inside my American Airlines account, and since I have the BarclayCard AAdvantage Aviator it also give me and any companions free luggage to check. Make sure you also put in your DoD ID number in the place of the Know Traveler ID number to get pre check!

Now if you fly out late Tuesday you can work and not waste your leave day. I like to take the 16:17 Metra Union Pacific North line from Great lakes to Clybourn, then switch platforms to the Northwestern line away from the city to Jefferson Park. You can buy a ticket on the Ventura app, or from the conductor on the train. Make sure you go for the half priced Military Fares. From there you can use your free CTA card to take the Blue line into the terminal. Make sure you take the right train in the center track arriving at 17:32 or you end up on the earlier express on the outside track that skips Jefferson Park!

At ORD you can take advantage of the USO on the outside of security, but better yet since you are flying on American Airlines, you can show your CAC and ticket to get free beer and food inside security a the Admiral’s Club. Use the pre-check line or even the special military on orders line with CAC to cut the main line.

The food is much better in the AA club anyways, and you can’t argue with free beer, just try not to get too excited or forget to leave with enough time to board.

Arrival in PHL

I am assuming you didn’t check luggage for this next part of the adventure. If you decided to take the red eye and want to get some sleep at the airport you have two options here. Do not exit security and look for a place to stay till morning at the airport. One option is the USO (soon to be open in Terminal E) with bunk-beds and showers. The other is the Minute Suites that you can get a free hour with your Priority Pass Card. You can get tis with ether the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ritz Carlton Card, or the Amex Personal Platinum or Business Platinum.  All three cards will have the annual fee waived for military if you get it after 20 Sept 2017. Just use the links to toss me some points.

The Minute Suites is an American Capsule Hotel, it’s hourly rate is $28 an hour, but with the first hour free you could get a pretty nice rest, certainly not as cheap as the USO.

When 5 am rolls around you can head on over to the A 14 gates in A Terminal West and get access to showers, hot food, and even a morning cocktail at the Centurion Lounge. Just show your Amex Platinum Card, you dirty Chase Sapphire Reserve people need not apply! Priority pass will not be tolerated here. The lounge is amazing, with top notch brunch, it is a perfect place to relax in the morning , and all for free!

For those who don’t want to stay at the airport or checked luggage, each baggage claim has a zone #4 for airport shuttles. I ended up book at the Sheraton Suites airport for 7,000 SPG points (21,000 Marriott). Just call the front desk for a shuttle to pick you up 24/7. I got a pretty nice bed and living room, although it gets rowdy in th atrium at night. They gave me lounge access due to my Business SPG card, This included free late night appetizers and breakfast the next day. You can take the free shuttle back to the train station the next morning.

Exploring PHL

You can go ahead and take the train from the airport to downtown Philadelphia. There is a direct line from the airport to Jefferson station that runs from 05:00 t0 00:00 every day.

The train takes about 29 mins and cost $6.75 from the airport:

If you get off at Suburban or Jefferson you end up at most of the historic sites.

Military discounts can be found at many museums here. Some more notable and interesting attractions are the Mütter Museum of Medical Oddities and the Mint. I used my Uber credit that I get with my multiple Amex Personal Platinums which helps, but the city is very walkable.

Staying Downtown & Departure

If you haven’t gotten your membership from the Marines’ Memorial Club of San Francisco it is worthwhile to do. You can use this membership to stay at the Union League Club in Philadelphia for $235.00 for a standard room and $275.00 for a suite as a reciprocal member. This very historic hotel is a museum in itself, and you can spend the night there! Just make sure you don’t dress like a dirtbag. Otherwise there are many hotel options in the area ready for sweet point redemptions.

TO get back to the airport, take the train back to the airport and you are all set! TSA Pre-Check can be found in Terminal B and D upstairs.

Conclusion

Wherever you stay in PHL, just make sure you give yourself some ample time to enjoy the Centurion lounge at PHL on the way out. This idea of staying at the airport longer than needed was foreign to me until I gained lounge access. I had recently converted a O-3 in this new lifestyle of fine dining and free boozing and not even making it to the gate until half  of boarding had been completed. You realize that bus terminal style of waiting is what drives most people crazy.

Pretty much convinced this newbie to churning and travel to not live like a bitch anymore. Waiting in the long security line, paying for food and drink, sitting at the gate like a sucker. These are all behaviors that make people hate to travel! You don’t have to live like that. AmEx has been very nice to waive the $550 fee for the Platinum. This expensive card is ironically the key to nice AD travel on the cheap!

Just by doing your homework, churning responsibly, planning out your moves, a trip can be a treat! It may seem impossible to those who have not adequately planned a trip, but well worth it to prep well before hand. Please comment below  with any suggestions and look out for more cities in this series.

Safe relaxing travels!

-Derp

2 Days Only: Laser Engraved Luggage Tags @ PHL Centurion Lounge

I flew out to PHL to check out the Army Navy game, reunite with my Okinawan crew, and test my extreme tolerance for arctic conditions. I was also glad to meet with some of my higher ranking blog readers and have a mini churning summit!

Unfortunately the game ended up coming down to a Ray Finkle moment. Navy lost for the second time in a row, but we still got that 16 year streak to be proud of. Laces out next time! Better yet, try not to lose 10 yards before a field goal attempt. Hope to return to PHL for next year’s game.

On my way out, I checked into the PHL Centurion lounge by gate A14 and they had a giant laser etching machine as part of their holiday surprises series.

From 1000 to 1700 on 09 and 10 Dec 2017, the PHL lounge will be offering free laser engraved blue luggage tags with your initials. I went to the lounge too late to take advantage of the tags, drinks (bar closes at 2030), and food was gone (put away at 2045) since the lounge closes at 2100.

Despite all services closed, the lounge manager was very helpful in getting me information of other activities happening. For every day from 08 Dec to 23 Dec, every lounge in America is going to have a new surprise! I was given a list of exact events to come including (but not limited to): stylists offering free blow outs, mixologists signing books, gingerbread houses, and other fun gift giveaways. However, I was told not to share this list on any “social media” or blogs. All I can say it might be worth it to stop by the Centurion lounges around this time of year for something special!

Apparently they do this thing every year and Brian at TPG didn’t get the same memo about keeping things a surprise.

Update: The tags turned out to be Tile tag that can be tracked with your smart phone. It plays a happy little tune to help you identify it’s location. Here is one they made for our newest O-3 reader who heeded my advice:

-Derp

Impossible to Spend United Credit Before Year’s End

For all of those that have been waiting since Sept 2017 for the United Gift Registry to come back online to dump your $200 AmEx Platinum credits, it may be time to go with Plan B, which is to use the $200 for actual inflight charges and other fees.

Despite my best efforts, I have found it hard to use the credits for in flight purchases before 31 Dec 2017 due to delayed posting of charges. Today I spent $32.46 on two Moscow Mules, Antioxidant mix, and a Cheese Plate.

Charges have yet to show up, I am not sure if all of the in flight POS swipe systems have to be uploaded at a hub to have charges take place. Now on 27 October 2017 I got an instant receipt upon buying 8 vodkas and a wine. This is a rare event that the sales system actually works in a timely matter. You can always recover a receipt here on the United site.

Usually charges are delayed for months as described in the flyer talk thread, or never take place at all like I have experienced. Examples: I was on a United Express flight on 25 October 2017 which I bought a inflight beverage and still have not been charged! I also did the same thing on 19 November on a United Express Flight and still haven’t seen charges! Lots of theories and malicious ideas on this thread, I kindly urge you to not try the empty gift card trick as they write down the seat number that orders the food and drink!

Best case scenario is the charges never post, and I got all those snacks for free. Worst case is that all the charges post next year and count towards the 2018 credit. I am going to put in United as my Airline for 2018 to cover that possibility of delayed charges. Just to really hedge this thing I will continue my attempts to max my 2017 charges.

-Derp

No Annual Fee for Baller Citibank Cards for AD (EXPIRED)

UPDATE: Looks like Citi no longer waives for MLA! That was a fun ride while it lasted

NO MLA WAIVER GIVEN ANY MORE

(Post archived for history)

Update: Thank you DoC for the link back as well as additional datapoints! According to the new data, looks like every freeking card opened after joining the military is being covered by MLA for Citi, and every card before joining is covered under SCRA. This is beyond what Bank of America and Chase are doing which is only cards opened after 20 Sept 2017 are being waived per MLA. Chase and BoA also waive for cards opened before joining. This leaves every Chase and BoA card opened after joining and before 20 Sept 2018 exempt from both MLA and SCRA, meaning you have to pay the annual fee. If you haven’t gotten the Chase CSR and BoA Alaska which both are waived with MLA if you open them now!

Thank you to local O-4 who brought me the datapoint that his $450 annual fee on his Citibank American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Card has been waived per the MLA. Better news is that his wife is the primary card holder, and per the MLA she is covered under not being charged excessive annual fees as well as a 35% interest cap. Three companies have been verified to go above and beyond to waive annual fees as part of the MLA: Chase, Bank of America, and now Citi.

This might mean the end of my pursuit for 5/24 and CSR as my wife will probably end up with one (and me as her AU) when her Ritz card becomes the CSR. I will have to keep her account good so I can get her the United Club Credit card. Me on the other hand have my eyes on the Citi Prestige card with $250 annual flight credit to be used on tickets as well as every 4th night free in hotel bookings. This will be my go to card for earning Thank You points which I can transfer to JetBlue (at a ratio of 1 to 0.8), JetPrivilege, Malaysia, Qantas, Qatar, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Hilton Honors (at a ratio of 1 to 1.5) and Sears Shop Your Way. Just another points universe to deal with! Hope that 75K Thank You points offer comes around again.

I could also get the Citibank American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Card for 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after making $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Plus full Admirals Club membership for myself and domestic lounge access for my AUs. Totally worth it in my book, just to get lounge access for my family when I don’t travel with them!

MLA is a game changer! Remember that you have to apply it only to accounts created after 20 September 2017. (DoC says every card now falls under the MLA, even those opened after joining and before 20 Sept 2017). I say forget Chase and their constant threat of a financial review shut down. There are just too many great deals on the horizon, and I don’t want to miss out!

-Derp

 

Wanted: Your AmEx Delta Biz Referral Links

A local senior O-4 had the cojones to ask me how to get the fee waiver on his brand new Alaska Airlines card, but he didn’t even use my, or anybody’s referral link! This my friend is affront to the whole churning community! I helped him out but nicely asked him to hit me up with any ideas for a new card instead of throwing points in the garbage.

So my point is, I am going to be switching my strategy to a AmEx Biz application only approach to get under 5/24 until September 2019! If you have any of the Delta Business Cards from AmEx, please share your referral link in the comments below so we can get this new churn season going.

I want to hit Delta again because there is some pretty sweet redemption for MSP to HND in their fold flat Delta One first class product. A $6,607.36 can be had for 160,000 Sky Pesos!

With the 105,000 miles for all three Delta cards and my 3 Personal cards you can get this flight for 4.1 cents per mile:

For those following along, I have only the SPG business card of which you can use my referral link here. If you don’t care for 5/24, please use my personal Delta links here (Gold), here (Platinum), and here (Reserve). The plan is to hit all three biz, and 3 personal. You will get 70k on plat, 50K gold 10K reserve. Then 30k gold biz, 35k plat biz and 40k reserve biz. The total is 235,000 miles!

Also hit me up if you are interested in the Alaska Airlines BoA card.

-Derp

Rumor: Ritz will become CSR

FrequentMiler is reporting the merger of the points program between SPG & Marriott taking place in late 2018. I had declared after my CPC disappointment, that I would be good and stop churning to get under 5 cards in a 24 month period so I can get some sweet Chase offers under the MLA. I thought it would be easy not to apply for a new product for until September of 2019, but it seems I am tempted again!

Good news is we can say fuck 5/24 and Chase because AmEx is going to bail us out again with premium card annual waivers without 5/24! This is because both Chase and AmEx have decided to split responsibility to cover Marriott and SPG in the future. What has been decided is Chase getting the normie cards, and AmEx getting the premium cards. Good news for us military folk well past 5/24!

I am hopeful by the upcoming Marriott & SPG program merger as well as the announcement of AmEx and their new Marriott products. There may be a chance the Ritz Card becomes the CSR!!! This would be similar to what had happened to the Chase Fairmont card becoming the CSP. This would get rid of my need to satisfy 5/24, because the MLA waiver on my Wife’s current waived Ritz card will become a waived CSR. She would miss out on the 50,000 UR points, but she would have the $300 waiver and 3x earning a whole year in advanced!

On my side, I would cancel my Ritz Card in order to get the CSR bonus once I am under 5/24 in Sept 2019. I plan on maybe converting my SPG Business into the new Marriott Business card, but I would miss out on the new sign up bonus. However the ultimate treat would be the conversion of my wife’s personal SPG card (SCRA waived) into the newest premium Marriott product with the $450 SCRA AmEx fee waiver. Then we could close her Marriott personal card that has no waiver. This would be a product conversion and not hit as another card against 5/24. Once she is under 5/24 we hit up Chase for a MLA waived United Club card.

Got to wait 19 months for the wife to be under 5/24! Is it even worth it?

Or I could have one of us be good for 5/24 while the other is constantly applying for new cards and never to satisfy 5/24. For the good account, I plan on using the AmEx Biz card loophole to not have new cards show on my report. This may be my avenue to get the new AmEx Marriott card replacement!

There is so much speculation right now on what will happen, better keep these cards open just to see if product changes can take place in the future in order to satisfy that 5/24! I urge you to take advantage of the possible Ritz to CSR conversion that may or may not take place if you are well past 5/24! This way you have a possible MLA waived CSR in the future.

-Derp

Why I still Have The US Bank Altitude

It has been 8 months since getting the coveted, but soon forgotten US Bank Altitude Card. The card has paid me an initial bonus of 50,000 points worth exactly $75o in travel. The initial $400 annual fee was made up for by a $325 travel credit. In the end the card is a $75 a year 4.5% cash back card when used with mobile wallet, or travel expenses. I get a lot out of benefits like the free Andrew Harper reviews, free inflight GoGo WiFi (12 per year), and 15% off my GroundLink bookings, but I have been using the AmEx Offer of $50 off $150 right now on GroundLink.

I say the card has been forgotten because I haven’t used its physical card for months now. I have it in as my only card for Mobile Pay which I use for every terminal that takes Apple Pay. I also forgot the 60k points I have sitting around, so I decided to use them for my mom to visit family in Canada.

On United.Com they wanted $606.66 for a non-stop flight from ORD to YYC (Calgary). I logged into US Banks and found the exact same flight for 1.5 cents per point:

This is a solid, no joke, 1.5 cent per point redemption right here. There is no monkeying around with 50% or 35% points cash back with AmEx Business Platinum, and unlike Chase portal in which some times prices are more on the Chase portal than on the airline site.

There are a lot of other benefits I still haven’t explored on https://www.usbankaltitude.com. One of them is golf with troon:

I don’t golf, but why not check out some of these places for $99 twice a year:

I also wanted to take advantage of $60 off the James Beard Tours:

The other forgotten card I have is the BarclayCard Arrival+ which earns 2 points per $1, but each point is worth 1 cent for travel. I didn’t even realize I still had it until new ones came in the mail since the old ones expired. This card I will also keep as it is the only USA issued card with chip & PIN capability to use in Europe. The CSR sometimes works magically at some of these kiosks, but not 100% of the time.

If I wasn’t trying to fix my 5/24 situation, I would gladly apply for the US Bank Altitude card to see if they would do a MLA waiver. Please let me know if you do!

-Derp