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Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Improved Bonus: 60,000 Points = $750 In Travel, 2X Points on Travel and Dining

Update with improved 60k offer. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a premium travel rewards credit card, now with an improved offer that is the best publicly-available bonus in years. The card earns points that can be redeemed for cash, travel credits, or transferred to airline miles. Here are the highlights:

  • 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. That means 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel. No blackout dates. As long as there’s a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide. 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named “Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption” – Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, June 2018.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs.
  • $95 annual fee.

(Quick background: The previous offer was 50,000 bonus points with the annual fee waived during the first year. This one is 60,000 bonus points and a $95 annual fee. Since an extra 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth at least 1.25 cents per point towards travel, that’s still a net $30 minimum improvement with a conservative estimate. Now, I just did an instant transfer to Hyatt last week that got me 2 cents per point value, which shows that the real value of Ultimate Rewards points is in its flexibility in transferring to places like United miles and Hyatt points as needed to reach a free night or flight.)

Note the following text:

The product is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card who received a new cardmember bonus within the last 48 months.

Note that Chase has an unofficial rule that they will automatically deny approval on new credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards from any issuer on your credit report within the past 2 years (aka the 5/24 rule). This rule is designed to discourage folks that apply for high numbers of sign-up bonuses. This rule applies on a per-person basis, so in our household one applies to Chase while the other applies at other card issuers.

Ultimate Rewards points. This card offers a special 25% bonus on travel redemptions made through the Ultimate Rewards travel website. For example, 60,000 Ultimate Rewards = $750 in travel. Similar to Expedia or Travelocity, you can book flights on most major airlines and hotel chains. This makes it much more flexible to spend your points. You can even buy something more expensive and pay the difference.

If you have other Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points like the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Ink Business Cash or Ink Business Unlimited, you can transfer points into this card account and take advantage of the this higher premium. In other words, your existing Ultimate Rewards points balance could be increased in value by getting this card.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is the “ultra-premium” rewards card that offers a bigger 50% bonus on travel redemptions, along with more perks and a higher annual fee.

Prefer airline and/or hotel points? This card also allows you to transfer Ultimate Rewards points into hotel and/or airline miles. Transfer to United Airlines, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Southwest, Hyatt Hotels, IHG Hotels, and Marriott Hotels at a ratio of 1 Ultimate Rewards point = 1 mile/hotel point. Miles redemption continue to offer great value for savvy travelers, especially for last-minute travel and business class seats. I personally use the transfers to “top off” my account to reach a free coach ticket or free hotel night when I don’t have enough points otherwise. My favorite options are United miles, Southwest miles, and Hyatt hotel points. In this manner, I can often get close to 2 cents per point value.

Cash redemptions are a simple and easy option, but the conversion is a straight 100 points = $1.

Sharing points. Ultimate Rewards points are instantly transferable to other accounts like family members, as long as they have their own Chase card with Ultimate Rewards as an authorized user (free with Chase Freedom). This way, you can pool points together for transfers and redemptions if you like.

Additional card benefits:

  • Premium, dedicated customer service line with a live person, 24/7. A real person picks up after a couple rings, no phone trees or typing those darn 16 digits over and over. You can use this feature to redeem cash rewards over the phone for free, although booking rewards tickets over the phone costs $20 (doing so online is free).
  • Primary car rental collision damage waiver insurance. Decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad. Most other cards only offer secondary coverage that kicks in only after the deductible of your individual insurance policy is used.
  • Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement. If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket

Bottom line. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has a 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points sign-up bonus, 2X points on Dining/Travel, and a $95 annual fee. This card has become quite popular because it is easy on both the earning and redeeming of rewards. Earning double miles on travel and restaurants is a useful category where a lot of people spend a lot of money (that’s not housing or student loans). If you can find a good use for airline miles, you can transfer them over. If you can’t, the 1.25 cent per point value on travel redemptions is easy to use. This is one of the few cards where I think paying the annual fee is worth it.

You can only get one Sapphire bonus every 48 months, so compare with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, which offers a bigger 50% bonus on travel redemptions, along with more perks and a higher annual fee.

I will be updating this improved offer on my list of Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers.

TD Ameritrade Commission-Free ETF List + Up to $2,500 Account Transfer Bonuses


Updated 2019 with new transfer bonus links. TD Ameritrade has made several changes to their commission-free ETF trading program over the years. I am not an active trader, so that is the focus of this post. Most recently, they made an important shift from offering fewer, popular ETFs to offering a higher number of niche ETFs. In addition, TDA also has various promotions if you do decide to move over some assets.

Commission-free ETFs. Here is the current list of 300+ commission-free ETFs. ETFs held less than 30 days will be charged a short-term trading fee of $13.90. ETFs on the commission-free list cannot be used as collateral for a margin loan, nor can they be included in margin equity for 30 days after purchase.

(For posterity, here is the old ETF list ] which ended in November 2017. These ETFs were chosen by 3rd-party Morningstar to be the best 100 ETFs from the biggest providers (Vanguard and iShares) and with the highest assets, highest trading volume, and lowest expense ratios.)

Current providers include AGFiQ QuantShares, First Trust Portfolios, iShares ETFs, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, PowerShares by Invesco, ProShares, State Street Global Advisors’ SPDR, and WisdomTree Investments.

The bad. Unfortunately, this move also puts TD Ameritrade more firmly into the pack of brokerage with ETF/mutual fund “supermarkets” based on who will pay them for shelf placement:

TD Ameritrade receives remuneration from certain ETFs (exchange-traded funds) that participate in the commission-free ETF program for shareholder, administrative and/or other services, generally ranging from the equivalent of approximately 15% to 30% of the ETFs’ annual net operating expense ratio.

This is a common arrangement and you’ll see the same thing at Schwab and Fidelity, but in my opinion you end up a bigger list of less-attractive products. They also tend to have higher expense ratios. In my opinion, the quantity has gone up, but the quality has gone down. Here are some examples that I’ve never even heard of before:

  • First Trust Alternative Absolute Return Strategy ETF
  • iShares Fallen Angels USD Bond ETF
  • PowerShares Optimum Yield Diversified Commodity Strategy No K-1 Portfolio
  • QuantShares US Market Neutral Anti-Beta Fund

The good. To be fair, there are still some iShares Core ETFs (though not the broadest ones) and some SPDR ETFs that cover broad indexes (though with lower asset size and trading volume). There are maybe 15-20 ETFs that I could see as part of a low-cost, long-term portfolio. A few examples:

  • SPDR Dow Jones Total Market (SPTM)
  • SPDR S&P World ex-US (SPDW)
  • SPDR Lehman Aggregate Bond (SPAB)
  • iShares 0-5 Year TIPS Bond ETF (STIP)
  • iShares Core International Aggregate Bond ETF (IAGG)
  • iShares Core U.S. REIT ETF (USRT)
  • iShares Global REIT ETF (REET)

However, I still don’t like that they changed it. You might have built up a position with $0 trades, and now it costs $6.95 per trade to buy more. You can try and switch to the closest approximate ETF, but what about next time they shake up the list? TD Ameritrade won “#1 for Long-Term Investing” in the Barron’s magazine 2018 rankings. I don’t know if long-term investors like to switch holdings every 7 years. Maybe the niche ETFs are a better draw for TDA’s target audience.

The competition. If you want to construct a low-cost, broadly-indexed ETF portfolio, I would compare with the offerings from Schwab, Vanguard, and Fidelity. None of those are an independent brokerage like TD Ameritrade, but they do offer commission-free trades on low-cost, broad ETFs. You could also look into the free trade offers from Bank of America ($50k+ in relationship assets), Robinhood (free share bonus), WeBull (free share bonus), and Firstrade.

Current New Account Promotions. TD Ameritrade has various promotions that vary between 90 days of free trades on up to $2,500 depending on how in assets you bring over. Here are what I have found are the best bonuses for any given asset level:

TDA promo link #1

  • Fund with $3,000: Get 90 days of free trading
  • Fund with $25,000: Get $100 cash + 90 days of free trading
  • Fund with $50,000: Get $200 cash + 90 days of free trading
  • Fund with $100,000: Get $500 cash + 90 days of free trading
  • Fund with $250,000: Get $1,000 cash + 90 days of free trading

TDA promo link #2

  • Fund with $500,000: Get $1,200 cash + 90 days of free trading
  • Fund with $1,000,000: Get $2,500 cash + 90 days of free trading

Bottom line. TD Ameritrade has shifted the nature of their commission-free ETF program. Overall, the widely-held, broad ETFs from Vanguard and iShares have been removed. In their place, many niche/sector ETFs and smaller, newer ETFs have been added. If you like specialized ETFs, check to see if it is on their newly-expanded list of 296 ETFs.

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