The Quest for 1,000,000 UR Points

Credit Card churning is something that goes hand-in-hand with the whole FIRE and slow travel mentality.  If you are going to be traveling around and there’s a company out there that will give you a handsome sum to do something you are doing anyway, why not?  At the moment we’re approaching 1 Million Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and here’s some details on how we did it fairly quickly.

Disclosures:

While I figure most people reading this understand these principles, I want to make one thing abundantly clear:

DO NOT RUN UP CREDIT CARD DEBT!

This is just a bad idea.  Make sure you pay everything off in full every month.

Next, there are many different award and frequent user programs out there that can be good.  But we’re choosing to focus  just on the Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

The other thing that I would like to make abundantly clear is:

DO NOT RUN UP CREDIT CARD DEBT!

Got it?  Ok, Good!

Why Chase Ultimate Rewards Points?

These points are often considered the most valuable among the churning communities, as they are transferable to a large variety of partner programs allowing for flexibility on the redemption side of the equation.  I’ve seen that these points are typically valued anywhere from 1.5-2.5 cents per point.  That of course can go up depending on where you use the points and what deals you find.  I’m not going to go into the extreme detail on the redemption portion, but there are plenty of sites out there that discuss optimizing the redemptions*.  We’ll leave the experts to that.  We haven’t really started redeeming yet, so I’ll start paying attention to that once we do.

How Did We Get Here?

A few years ago, I was talking to a buddy of mine while riding my bike to work.  We got to talking about how there was this card that you could sign up for and they would give you $200 or something.  I was like…

What?  I already have a credit card?  Why would I want another?

Then we started discussing it, and I figured what the hell, I’ll sign up for it and see.  So, I did.  It was an easy $200.  I think I eventually saved up the points and then cashed them in for the cash value once I had like $500 worth.  This was a small taste of what was to come.

Fast forward a few years and we’re way beyond the point of return on this whole financial independence path and one of the auxiliary activities is finding credit card rewards.  So, I sat there and thought about it.  We like to travel, what the hell?  Let’s rack them up.  Then we can use them once we decide to hang it up for good, or at least take a sabbatical and travel around for a while.

Steps to 1MM UR Points:

    1. Beware of the 5/24 – Chase has a 5/24 sign up policy.  Meaning that you can only sign up for 5 cards within a 24 month period.  So you have to make the most of the cards you’re signing up for.  Be careful and start with the heavy hitters first.  There are several out there that offer $1,000 (100,000 UR points) to sign up for the cards.  The big one most recently is the Sapphire Reserve.  You can also get 100K points from the Ink Business Preferred.
    2. Sign up each of us for all the cards – This is where is helps to be married.  Since each of these cards offers the rewards, we sign up each of us for it.  2 Sapphire Reserve cards = 200k points.  It also means 2x the spending requirements and 2x the annual fees, so be careful.  But yes, there are also bonuses for authorized users, and for referring a friend.  Well, guess what, Mrs.Wow is a great friend, she signs up for all my referral bonuses… Same with me, I’m a great friend to her.  (This works with Wealthfront too BTW, you’ll each get another $5K managed free, so $10K total).
    3. Sign up for Business cards as well as personal – We’ve mentioned in other posts that Mrs.Wow runs her own company.  So, as such, we can sign up for all the Ink Business cards as well.  We tend to run all her business expenses through the card we are using to reach the spending requirements, then pay it off with the money through the business.  This works pretty well.  I’ve also seen that you can sign up for multiple accounts under the same EIN (a company’s SSN) with different SSN’s.  So this will be the next thing that is going to push us up over the 1MM mark.  We’re going to double up on the Ink Cards as well.  Depending on who you talk to, these cards don’t count against your 5/24.  We’ll find out soon enough.
    4. Track the bonus categories – All the different cards rack up bonus points for different things.  The business cards get bonus points for phone service and internet service.  The Freedom card has quarterly bonuses.  So, every 3 months when the categories shift, I pull out some masking tape, and our envelope of credit cards.  I cycle through them and pull out the ones that we need to use, and put the old ones back in the envelope.  Then I take the masking tape and label what goes into our wallets.  At this point, groceries are the bonus category on the Freedom card, so we use that to get the bonuses while doing our standard grocery shopping.  Also, our market has a wall full of giftcards, so in order to hit the spending limit on the bonus, I’ll tend to buy a couple of giftcards for things we will use anyway.  I haven’t gotten crazy enough to buy Visa Pre-Paid cards, then turn them into money orders written to myself.  I might get to that point, but we’ll keep on our current path right now.
    5. Consolidate the points – This might be the simplest step of all.  You can transfer all the points to a family member, so every 3 months or so, I’ll transfer all the points into my Sapphire Reserve account so they are all on one card.  This makes it so we can close down accounts before the annual fee hits and we can know the total number.  The CSR also has one of the highest redemption values in transferring the points to partners, so that’s where we stockpile them.
    6. Manufacture Spending – This part can be a little tricky.  You have to be smart about how you use the cards and strategic on when you sign up for them.  I typically sign up for a new card when I know a large expense is coming up.  There are several super complicated ways to manufacture spending (see #4), but I try to keep it simple.  For instance:
      • We were paying for our trip to Chautauqua, so I signed up for a card, and ran the entire bill on that.
      • We bought a new (to us) car and I found a place that let us put the entire down payment on cards, so that is how we hit the minimum spending limit on both our CSR’s at once.
      • I know I am going to have to pay for a huge medical bill shortly, that will be reimbursed by an insurance company.  So I’ll run the entire bill through our new card.
      • Paying your payroll taxes on your cards, or prepaying your taxes on your cards.  This is pretty clever, and something we are definitely going to look into!
    7. Call to ask for the Best Bonus Available – I’ll usually keep tabs on the churning sub-reddit just to see what the latest news is.  Every now and again they find a bonus that’s only available through certain channels.  But, I’ll sign up anyway through the simple way, online.  Then I’ll typically call the customer service line, and explain to them that I just signed up for a new card, and saw another better sign up bonus after I signed up.  I’ll ask if they can match it.  So far, I’m 2/2 on them saying yes.  Basically, they put a note on your account about escalating the sign up bonus.  Then, when you hit the spending limit, you call them back up and ask about the escalation note.  I figure a simple phone call is worth several hundred dollars.

Another Bonus:

One of the toughest parts of going down the FIRE path is the “Boring Middle”.  That point where you’ve made all the adjustments and you’ve set up all the automated deductions.  Your lifestyle is pretty well trimmed back.  Sure, there are little things you can do, but they don’t really move the needle.  So, it’s a kind of hurry up and wait game.

For people like me, that are constantly trying to play with things and optimize them, this fits nicely into our lives.  I’ve set everything else on autopilot, so this gives me something to optimize and game.  Well, this and trying to figure out our tax situation.

Where are we now?

At the moment, we’re still building up some manufactured spending on a couple cards.  We’ve got a couple trips coming up and we’re working on gathering those points.  So… here’s where we stand now:

Not Bad. A couple more bonuses and we’re there!

That’s it!

We’re getting ever closer to the huge 1MM mark.  While it won’t make us FI, it definitely adds some to our arsenal, and we can’t wait to start using them!!

Are you churning?  Any pointers that you’d like to share?

Where should we go with our 1MM points???

* I heavily suggest the free TravelMiles101 course offered by the good gentlemen over at Richmond Savers.
* Another great resource is: AwardHacker

4 Comments

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach June 5, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Well I would go to Croatia and Slovenia. lol!! Man I definitely need to start looking back into why I keep getting denied. If I applied but got denied does that count as how many times you can open? Hope not. It’s so weird. What will be toughest is trying to figure out big ticket items. I have so few!

    Reply
    • Mr WoW June 5, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      That’s definitely on our list especially after seeing your pictures. I’m not sure, but maybe you can go down to a Chase Branch and see if they can give you a more detailed explanation, or simply call them. Just gotta be smart about how you do the spending. You can always go the “buy Visa Giftcards and use those in between rewards redemption periods.” And make sure that all your monthly bills go on CC’s as well.

      Reply
  • Mrs. Need2save June 5, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    WOW, Mr. WOW! That is an impressive balance. I’ve seen your masking tape trick in person with Mrs. WOW and was impressed back then. Keeping all the categories straight is hard sometimes and I love that tip.

    You guys are kicking butt with the points racking up!
    Mrs. Need2save recently posted…2 Troubling Realities about HSAsMy Profile

    Reply
    • Mr WoW June 6, 2017 at 8:23 am

      Hey thanks. We’re trying to rack up as many as possible now so that we can use them all when we start traveling around. Only if there was a way to start compounding them in some sort of investment account. Hmm….

      Reply

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