Has the Chase Sapphire been quietly retired?

For years, Chase has offered 3 Ultimate Rewards-earning personal (not small business) credit cards: the Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire, and Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Freedom is Chase's entry into the crowded field of rotating 5% cash back category cards, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a premium, flexible-Ultimate-Rewards earning credit card that, while paying affiliate bloggers handsome commissions, is essentially useless for the serious travel hacker due to its low earning rate and $95 annual fee which is generally not waived, even for those who spend above-average amounts on the card.

The Sapphire has meanwhile always been the odd card out: it earns 2 non-flexible Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants but not on travel purchases, and has no annual fee. Meanwhile, for the last three years the Chase Freedom has offered 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar at restaurants during the second quarter, making the Sapphire redundant for 25% of the calendar year.

The Sapphire has vanished from Chase's website and affiliate channels

Today I mentioned on Twitter that I had been able to request a product change from Sapphire Preferred to a second Freedom, and I was asked whether it would make more sense to change to Sapphire, instead.

A quick search revealed that the Sapphire has completely disappeared from Chase.com, while Credit Karma's review page does not have an active application link for the card. CreditCards.com is hopelessly annoying to navigate but I couldn't find an application link there, either.

Do yourself and Chase a favor: product change to Freedom

It appears that Chase is now more deliberately juxtaposing the no-annual-fee Freedom card with the premium, $95-annual-fee Sapphire Preferred. I think this actually does a huge service to their customers, who might have previously confused the Sapphire with a card worth carrying, which it is not and has never been.

If you happen to be a current Chase Sapphire cardholder, this is as good an occasion as any to call in and request a product change to the Freedom, since you'll get your new card in time to take advantage of 2015's first quarter bonus category of grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target stores).

Guest post: Funding bank accounts with credit cards

[Editor's note: this post was a guest submission by Will from Doctor of Credit. Will previously wrote for the site on the subject of depositing money orders remotely using smartphone apps, which I found to be an immensely helpful resource. I often mention Will as a great resource on his own website and perpetually helpful on Twitter @Drofcredit.]

Introduction: funding bank accounts with credit cards

You can view my favorite bank bonuses here, or a full listing of current bank bonuses here. Awhile ago I posted another guest post on Chasing the Points, with a list of bank accounts that could be funded with a credit card and also included whether opening a bank account with that bank account resulted in a hard pull and if that bank was offering a bonus at the time. That post is now a bit outdated, so I decided it was time to freshen it up. You can view it below, but first a few warnings:

  • Before doing this, make sure you set your cash advance limit to $0. A lot of card issuers will try to charge cash advance fees when funding a bank account, by setting your cash advance limit to $0 you'll avoid this risk. Don't even bother trying to use a Citi card as they almost always code as a cash advance.
  • You're better off focusing on the bank bonus, rather than the credit card funding aspect. Bank bonuses can be extremely lucrative and earn you an easy $200 per bonus, if you were using a 2% cash back card you'd need to find one that allows $10,000 in credit card funding to get $200 in cash back.

Last time I posted this I was criticized, but if you look back you'll see that almost none of these banks have changed how much can be funded with a credit card. This is because this is a relatively cheap way of acquiring customers for a bank and it's a cost they are well aware of and willing to pay for. Assuming a bank pays 3% in credit card processing fees (which is extremely high) allowing funding of $2,000 would only cost them $60 which is significantly lower than bank bonuses that they offer consumers on a regular basis. We've purposefully left out banks that allow funding for a large amount, as in the past this had lead to abuse.

Understanding the list

Use the following key to understand each bank's entry:

  • ^ next to the bank's name indicates this bank is currently offering a bonus for opening an account
  • * next to the bank's name indicates this bank does a hard credit pull to open an account

You can click the links to be taken directly to the page specifying the bonus that bank is offering, for banks not offering a bonus it'll take you to the home page.

Nationwide Banks

State Specific Banks

  • America's Credit Union^ up to $10,000 (not actually state specific, but extremely limited membership)
  • Arizona State Credit Union [AZ only]
  • BB&T [AL, DC, FL, GA, IN, KY, MD, NC, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV Only]
  • BBVA Compass up to $300 [AL, AZ, CA, CO, FL, NM & TX]
  • Bank of Maine^ [ME, MA & NH] up to $500
  • Citizens Bank [Enter zip to find out] up to $1,000
  • First Citizens* [AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, GA, KS, MD, MS, NM, NC, OK, OR, SC, TN, TX, VA, VA, WA, WV] bank up to $1,000
  • First Mark^ [TX only], possibly up to $10,000 and place two week hold on transactions above $100. Only accept Visa & Mastercard
  • GTE Federal* [FL only] up to $5,000 per account. Also possible to open six month CDs
  • KeyBank^ [AK, CO, ID, IN, ME, MI, NY, OH, OR, UT, VT, or WA] up to $100
  • NorthWest Savings Bank^  [PA, NY, MD, OH] up to $100
  • Regions Bank [AL, AR, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, & TX] only up to $1,000 for both the checking and savings account


For more like this, don't forget to visit Will at Doctor of Credit and follow him on Twitter.

Easy and free ways to liquidate prepaid gift cards from Office Max

By now many of my readers will have seen information about the current Office Max promotion, running through December 27, 2014, for $20 off $300 or more in Visa or MasterCard gift cards purchased in-store.

Since $200 Visa and MasterCard gift cards come with a $6.95 activation fee, buying two will net you $6.10 in value even before accounting for any credit card rewards earned on the purchase, while buying one $200 and one $100 gift card would net you $7.10, again before accounting for credit card rewards.

While it's possible to simply integrate these cards into your existing workflow of manufactured spending, this deal is so good I think folks who, for reasons of geography, time, or inclination, don't typically manufacture spend with prepaid debit cards should still consider going for it.

For their sake, here are several ways to capture the value of Office Max gift cards without studying up on all the ins and outs of manufactured spend.

Give them as gifts

Ok, this one's a bit of a joke, but some people actually give Visa and MasterCard gift cards as gifts! If you can get $200 in credit with your loved ones for $196.60, that's still a win!

Prepay your bills

You might be accustomed to paying your cell phone bills each month with a Chase Ink card to earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. Using a Visa or MasterCard gift card bought at Office Max during this promotion captures the same 5-Ultimate-Rewards-point earning opportunity, but includes a nice discount off face value. If you're the kind of guy who frets over taxes, you can probably even get away with deducting the entire amount of your cell phone payment (though as I'm fond of saying, not only am I not an accountant, I'm definitely not your accountant!).

In addition to cell phones, there are many telecommunications companies, among others, that happily accept prepayments made with debit cards online. Check yours.

Use Evolve Money

This is a more flexible version of the above. Evolve Money accepts prepaid debit cards for bill payments to many merchants that don't themselves accept debit cards directly. You can use prepaid debit cards to make payments to your mortgage, car loan, student loans, municipal utility companies and tax authorities, and thousands of other merchants. If you use a Visa or MasterCard debit card bought at Office Max during this promotion, you'll do so at a nice discount.

As I've reported extensively elsewhere, you can even use prepaid debit cards to fund your own or your children's education through one of the many 529 College Savings plans that accept contributions through Evolve Money (I use the Utah Educational Savings Plan because of its flexibility and low-cost Vanguard mutual funds). If you decide to go this route, please read my entire series on Evolve Money.

Buy gift credit at merchants where you'll use it

While a classic example is at a merchant like Amazon.com, where you can buy gift credit in almost any denomination and have it simply wait for you to redeem it against future purchases, there are other choices you might consider: if you frequently ride Uber, buy yourself some gift credit and it will be automatically used up as you take rides.


Offers like this Office Max deal are as close to free money as you're likely to find without a deep dive into the world of manufactured spend. You may think it's not worth lugging around gift cards for everyday purchases, but hopefully the examples above show you that's totally unnecessary: these cards are almost as easy to liquidate as they are to buy.

IHG Rewards Into the Chaos: Points or Nights?

As you know, IHG Rewards' 4th quarter promotion is called Into the Nights, and gives you the option of earning up to 50,000 bonus points or 2 free nights at any IHG property, or a combination of points and nights.

As you may or may not know, depending on how many promotional thresholds you've met so far, the implementation of the promotion has been a fiasco, which has earned it the affectionate moniker "Into the Chaos." For months, stays weren't tracking or posting properly, and it was unclear how long it would take for IHG Rewards to resolve the situation.

I met the last of my promotional thresholds back on November 23, and recently noticed that my bonus points for each threshold finally posted on December 9:

I met my first threshold (booking through the IHG app) on November 2, and those points posted on November 17, which gives roughly the same delay (15-16 days).

You've earned them: Nights or Points?

The above points were automatically earned for meeting each threshold. Now I have to decide whether to select nights or points as my reward for meeting all 5 of my challenges:

I've been turning the problem over in my mind for a few days, because it has a number of angles worth considering.

  • First, IHG has their periodic PointsBreaks List, which allows you to book rooms at any of the properties on the list during the current PointsBreaks period (currently November 2014 to February 2015) for just 5,000 IHG Rewards points. These stays are extremely popular, and if you plan on using your IHG Rewards points for a PointsBreaks stay, you should obviously select points as your Into the Nights rewards: 25,000 points translates into a 5-night PointsBreaks stay!
  • Second, a mere look at IHG's hotel categories suggests that, on the contrary, free nights are the obvious choice. Just 3 of IHG's categories cost less than 25,000 points, so for stays at Category 4 and higher properties you'll want to redeem free nights, instead.
  • Ultimately, the right choice will depend on your actual travel plans. I have two trips planned in the first half of 2015, to Austin and New Orleans, and the downtown IHG properties where I would consider staying in those cities are all Category 4 or higher. I don't know whether I'll end up staying at IHG properties on those trips, but those are the most likely candidates and would require free night certificates, not points.


As my readers know, the least valuable reward is always the one you don't redeem. That goes double for IHG's Into the Nights free night certificates, which must be redeemed by December 31, 2015. If you can't commit to redeeming your free night certificates at properties Category 4 or higher in 2015, or you plan on redeeming points for PointsBreaks stays, you may well be best off selecting points. But if you have a general idea of your 2015 travel plans, check the cities you plan to visit and see if you won't be better off redeeming free night certificates, instead.

Cash back at Amazon.com

First of all, check out my spiffy new disclosure policy which should now be found at the top of each blog post when you visit my website. It reads:

"Disclosure: to the best of my knowledge, I receive no third-party affiliate revenue for any of the content on this site. I do occasionally include my own personal referral links for products and services, many of which you can find on my Support the Site! page. I am also theoretically paid for clicks through the Google Adsense ad found in the righthand sidebar (theoretically since I haven't actually hit a payment threshold yet) and for purchases made through my Amazon Associates referral link."

I don't know if there's anything else anyone has any questions about, but obviously it's a work in progress so do let me know if there's any ambiguity or anything like that.

HawaiianMiles for shopping at Amazon.com

All the way back in the day, Hawaiian Airlines was the only shopping portal that awarded miles for shopping at Amazon.com through their HawaiianMiles shopping portal (the "online eMarket"). I earned a whole 982 HawaiianMiles which, I noticed while researching this post, expired back in July:

This is obviously fairly embarrassing, since I could have redeemed them for something exciting like a subscription to All You magazine.

After HawaiianMiles cut Amazon.com from their shopping portal, I pretty much gave up on cash back while shopping there, and focused other ways to maximize my purchases, like rotating credit card categories with Chase Freedom or Discover it, or the "bookstore" 5% bonus category with the US Bank Cash+ card.

It's worth using cashback portals to shop at Amazon.com

For some reason I was recently clicking around TopCashBack and discovered that the "limited" departments TopCashBack pays out on are actually the very categories I do most of my Amazon.com shopping in!

TopCashBack pays 8% cash back for purchases in the following departments:

  • Home & Kitchen;
  • Women's Fashion;
  • Men's Fashion;
  • Kid's & Baby Fashion.

That's an incredibly generous range, and includes virtually everything I buy from Amazon.com. If you're combining it with a card that pays 5% cash back (or gift cards purchases at a bonused merchant), you'll increase your savings even more.


My Amazon Associates referral link pays me much less than 8% for purchases made by my readers, so if you're shopping in one of the 8% cash back categories you have my blessing to collect portal cash back instead!

Quick hit: Orbitz $100 off $100+ promo is back (2 nights required)

Via Miles To Memories, run, don't walk over to Orbitz.com and start booking pairs of nights for $100 off using promo code "VISACHECKOUT" and paying through, you guessed it, Visa Checkout.

Your total stay cost must exceed $100 before the discount is applied, your stay must be two or more nights, and not all properties are eligible. According to Miles To Memories, the code is good for travel between December 10 and June 30, 2015.

If you don't have an Orbitz Rewards account yet, feel free to sign up using my referral link. If you do, we'll each earn $25 in Orbucks. And don't forget to click through a shopping portal for additional cash back: TopCashBack is currently paying 7% on Orbitz reservations, although only 2% on reservations made with a coupon code.

Update: selling Marriott gift cards to Cardpool

Last month I wrote about a nice opportunity to score Marriott stays on the cheap or make a quick buck buying Marriott gift cards for 25% off and then reselling them at 92% of their face value.

First the good news: as expected, Marriott gift card purchases of $200 or more made at Marriott properties (not their multitude of other brands) counted towards the American Express Sync offer, and I received $50 statement credits on all my cards within a day or two.

However, you may remember that my plan was to resell those gift cards, since I so rarely pay for hotel stays that it would take me years to spend $800 at Marriott properties. Consequently, last week I went to sell a single Marriott gift card to Cardpool, and immediately ran into a problem: when submitting a card's details, Cardpool requires a 15-digit gift card number. But the cards I bought have 20-digit gift card number, plus 4-digit PIN's! Fearing the worst, I wrote to Cardpool asking if they only purchased 15-digit gift cards, and whether there was a workaround.

There was. This afternoon, Cardpool wrote me back, explaining:

"Simple [sic] enter the 15 digits for the gift card number and input the remaining number + the PIN number as PIN number or CID."

So there you have it: if you're reselling a 20-digit Marriott gift card to Card Pool, enter the first 15 exposed digits as the card number, and the remaining digits plus the PIN in the second required field.

Oh, and if you're reselling to Cardpool, be sure to click through TopCashBack in order to earn an additional 4% of the card's face value in cash back.

Developing: problems with Walmart bill pay

This is just a quick note going into the weekend for readers who haven't yet seen this on Twitter, Flyertalk, or another manufactured spending forum.

Some Walmart Money Center registers are no longer showing some credit card payment networks

As longtime readers know, I'm a huge fan of CheckFreePay bill payments at Walmart, which allow you to use PIN-enabled debit cards to pay Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and some American Express cards (depending on the card issuer). They make it easy to liquidate PIN-enabled prepaid debit cards and free up credit limits for additional spending throughout the month.

This afternoon I was unable to make bill payments to any of my credit cards, which I discovered has been emerging as a problem in various places around the country.

There have also been reports of people still being able to successfully make bill payments as late as this evening, so at this point this is a "your miles may vary" situation. But if you are planning to make Walmart or other CheckFreePay bill payments to your credit cards this weekend, don't be shocked if your cashiers are unable to find your payees in their system.

Stay tuned for updates in the coming days and weeks, as this situation is developing...