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Reader Success Story: iPhone Replacement

Ritz Carlton Card Purchase Protection Saves A $1,177 iPhone Purchase

Reader and best of friends Christopher guest writes the following:

The Incident

On August 17th, I dropped my iPhone in the ocean while kayaking with my wife. The phone dropped about 20 feet to the ocean floor and I was unable to retrieve it. Since the iPhone XS Max is only waterproof to a depth of two meters of water for 30 minutes, I’m sure that it is no longer functional. For this reason, I would consider the phone both lost and damaged beyond repair.

Despite knowing that the phone was probably gone, I dove into the water and swam down as far as I could. To my disappointment, without dive fins, I was unable to reach the bottom. I returned to my kayak wet and disappointed. I knew I had backed up my phone to the iCloud the night before, so I wasn’t worried about losing any of my data. I was only bothered by the loss of the $1,176.96 that I spent on the phone just three weeks earlier, or at least the $269 deductible for me to file a claim with AppleCare+ (with Theft and Loss).

The Card Bennies

After spending a few moments rowing my kayak and planning my trip to the Apple Store, I remembered that I purchased the phone using my Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card. I knew that the card offered Purchase Protection, but I couldn’t remember the terms of the benefit. I was a couple of miles row from my car, so I had quite a bit of time to think about the situation. Once I was back at the 4Runner, I logged into the Chase app on my wife’s phone and saw:

————————————
PROTECTION BENEFITS… keep you secure when using your Ritz-Carlton Credit Card

Shop Securely: When you use your card, your purchases are covered with the following protections.

Purchase Protection: Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year.
————————————

I contemplated the guidelines as I looked at them, “Less than 120 days: Check”… “Damage up to $10,000: Check.” I wondered for a moment of they would give me a hard time about proving the “damage” since I was unable to recover the phone.

The Claim Process

As soon as I got home, I called the number on the back of my card to inquire about the claims process. Within seconds, I was transferred to the claims department where a very helpful lady walked me through the claims process. The whole process took about fifteen minutes. For my claim justification, I simply typed in the first paragraph above. Then I crossed my fingers and hoped that they would approve my claim for my damaged phone. I even offered to take my SCUBA gear out to the location where I dropped the phone to retrieve it if the lady thought it would help my claim. She laughed and told me that it would be unnecessary, but she would make note of the offer on my account.

A couple of days later, I received an email asking me to upload a few reasonable documents: Purchase Receipt, Ritz-Carlton Credit Card statement from the month of purchase, and an email from my home insurance company stating that I had not filed a duplicate claim with them. Three days after uploading the requested documents, my claim was approved and two days after that, $1,176.96 was deposited into my bank account.

Stop Freaking Out Over Chase’s Binding Arbitration

Chase’s Binding Arbitration Isn’t A Big Deal

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but I’m talking about lawyery things below very matter-of-factly. Don’t make legal decisions based on a travel hacking blog. I hate that I have to write this.

I wrote about this already in last weeks recap, but the travel blog-o-sphere is acting like Chase (or JPMCB for those that check their credit report) is executing cardholders in the streets. Since this is now such a hot topic for absolutely no reason, I wanted to write an article (vent) to put this all into perspective.

It sounds so scary with “binding” tacked on

No Effect On Military

First and foremost: If you are active-duty military, your cards fall under the Military Lending Act‘s protections. One of these protections is prohibiting forced arbitration agreements. You do not have to care in the slightest, just keep deleting the JPMCB emails.

Some Perspective

For those of you directed to this military travel hacking blog that are not active duty or under MLA protections, allow me to put this situation into perspective for you. Remember when you applied for your Chase card and read through the Terms and Conditions for about a half-hour to ensure you understood your legal rights when engaging in financial transactions with Chase? No, you don’t, because no one reads through the T&C’s (yes, I am baiting the one person reading this that did read the T&C’s to leave comments because site traffic is site traffic). You just sign away whatever rights Chase wants you to for the privilege of using their credit cards.

Well, guess what this binding arbitration change is? An alteration of the T&C’s that you didn’t care about before and likely only care about now because some lesser travel hacking blog wanted to capitalize on the ubiquitous victim mentality of this country.

CAPITAL LETTERS

What Even Is Arbitration?

But, I get it, you’ve now been woke to this term “binding arbitration” and suddenly care about your legal rights (although, if I were a betting man, I’d bet you still haven’t read through any of the other T&C sections to see what other rights exist that you don’t care about). So in a pinch, here’s what changed. If Chase does something to your account that you feel warrants legal action you are losing your ability to litigate (go to court, sue, etc.) or join up in a class-action lawsuit. Instead, you are now bound to settle said dispute with arbitration.

Arbitration is when a third party (paid by Chase, so impartiality is, I guess, questionable) sits down with you and Chase and hears your problem and hears Chase’s excuse and decides if Chase owes you any damages. It’s pretty much always final (can’t appeal), confidential (non-disclosures for everyone), and limited to actual damages (can’t cry mental anguish and expect Chase to pony up).

How Not Bad Is It?

Now, admittedly, this is a policy change skewed far in Chase’s favor, but in the military, we weight risk with two factors: severity and probability. On the severity side, I’d give it a moderate. You ARE losing legal rights, but it isn’t like Chase is saying they can take your firstborn and you have no legal recourse (that you know of, read those T&C’s yet?). But on the probability side, I’m firmly planting it at negligible. Have you ever brought Chase to court? Do you know anyone that’s ever brought Chase to court? Can you think of a situation in the cycle of making purchases, paying off said purchases, and receiving sweet reward points for said purchases, where Chase could do something that would warrant you bringing them to court? I can’t, not without gross negligence and a media firestorm to accompany poor business practices (kind of like adding a binding arbitration clause to T&C’s but a lot worse).

Oh, worried that you won’t be able to join a class action? Have you ever been a part of a class action? Know anyone part of a class action? You might, and if it were as big as a class action would be with a bank like Chase you’ll know the time and effort is rarely worth the payout after lawyer fees and split hundreds of thousands of ways.

You can reject our arbitration, just like we can reject you as a cardmember

What About Opting Out?

If you aren’t convinced by now that this is all blog hype and nothing to worry about, you may be thinking you should opt-out. Chase did provide an opt-out option via snail mail if you write to them before August 9th, 2019. If I were a betting man, I’d be willing to bet that failing to accept Chase’s new terms will provoke Chase to close your sweet, sweet reward cards. Doesn’t seem fair? Legal? Gosh, I bet you wish you read those T&C’s now. Buried within the Awards Program Agreement is this little nugget of catch-all “Your points don’t expire as long as your account is open, however, you’ll immediately lose all your points if your account status changes, or your account is closed, for any of the following reasons: […] we believe you may be unwilling or unable to pay your debts on time.” Gosh, what might lead them to believe you are unwilling or unable to pay your debts on time? I’ll take “literally anything” for $500, Alex.

At the end of the day, Chase has you by the balls and why shouldn’t they? They provide a sweet product that’s worth giving up some legal rights that you’ll never need to use or know exist unless the internet tells you. How do I know that? Because this opt-out clause is only for existing accounts and all new accounts will have it firmly nestled into the T&C’s. But guess what? You and everyone else will still get Chase cards and still not read the T&C’s because the products are still worth having and without an opt-out clause the blog-o-sphere won’t have any reason to incite panic for clicks.

Oh, and Amex has a 45 day from first purchase arbitration opt-out on all of their cards, and I’m willing to bet you’ve never done that either.

/rant

The Updated Chase Ritz Carlton Card

The Old vs New Ritz Carlton Cards

With the ever-changing game of travel hacking and credit card churning comes the eventual demise of once-great credit card products. The Ritz Carlton card ended up taking a hit with the Bonvoy merger in terms of physical appearance but actually ended up a being a better product in the military travel hackers lineup in terms of yearly benefit.

To start, I’ve got a pictorial comparison of the Old Hotness Ritz card and the New and Busted Ritz card for your viewing pleasure.

New and Busted
Old Hotness
Not so much anymore.
The Ritz Card came with one of the most lavish welcome packages.
A solid metal slab of credit dominance.
Metal core between plastic, meh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we can see, the welcome package took a serious hit and the card design went from the most impressive hand feels on the market to the business-as-usual metal core design of the other high-end Chase cards. You can also see where I failed to take the time to set up appropriate lighting conditions in my photo studio (iPhone X and dinner table). I suppose this was the logical step to take for a card that is no longer offered for application but, gosh, that old solid metal style was a poster child for extravagance.

New Perks!

Luckily, the bad is out of the way and we can focus on the good: annual perks.  Every card you get should have a tasty signup bonus with a minimum spend that slows your card acquisition timeline to just barely tolerable by the banks.  This is all well and good to start but recurring annual perks are what makes a card worthy of collection space in the military churners lineup. The old Ritz card was no slouch with its $300 airline incidental reimbursement, 3 club level upgrades, and $100 airline ticket discount (but only on paid flights and, really, none of us should be paying for flights anymore).

The new card kept those perks but added a free Ritz night (capped at 50k points) annually. Jackpot. With this new addition, my wife and I get 3 Ritz nights, 9 club upgrades, and $900 in airline incidental reimbursements across our 3 annual fee waived Ritz cards, every year.  The hand feel may have downgraded but I’ll take a free night over aesthetics any day.

Sweet, sweet reimbursements

Remember, the Ritz card is still attainable by getting a Chase Bonvoy Boundless card, waiting a year, and requesting a card upgrade.  Do your future self a favor and start that countdown today.

As always, please consider using our referral link to get yours.

The Chase United Explorer Card

United Explorer Card Review for Military

The reverse mullet is what I like to see on card designs, party in the front, business in the back

Here it is, the card that started it all. The card that I saw an elevated sign-up bonus for while researching SCRA waived annual fees and churning during the tedious and boring MDMP classes at Captain’s Career Course. I never intended on getting in deep to the card game until those free miles hit my account and the hit of dopamine from the realization of easy, free travel settled in. I was hooked, and the United Explorer card was the bait that did me in.

Great Mid-Tier Perks

It’s probably the most solid mid-tier card out there. The signup bonus will likely get you 2 round trip tickets in the continental US for a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year. How could you say no?  First checked bag free (already have this for being Active Duty, but it’s nice to have hardcoded to your frequent flyer account) and priority boarding to boot.  But the real gem that makes this card shine? Two United lounge passes per cardmember year.  You will eventually not need these anymore once you get the United Club card, but they become a nice gift for friends when they get stuck on a layover.

Pro-Tip

Upgrade your Explorer to a Club after one year of ownership if you are over 5/24 and can’t get the Club through normal application processes.

As always, please consider using our referral link to get yours.

The Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card

Bonvoy Boundless Card Review for Military

I upgraded our Boundless to a Ritz before they sent the new card design. Thus, I do not have the new card design to take my ultra-professional blog quality iPhone X pictures of.  Does anyone want to spot me some pics?

The Bonvoy Card System Explained

Wait. What? I thought Amex was the Bonvoy bank.  How is Chase getting in on this Bonvoy business? Is this Bonvoy card really boundless? How many more “b” words can I connect to Bonvoy? All these questions answered and more in this Bonvoy blog.

A l l i t e r a t i o n

So here’s what befell.  SPG was being SPG with Amex and Ritz was being Ritz with Chase and Marriott was being begrudging since they were by nature not as boss as those cards (I’m pretty sure that’s how it began).  Then Marriott brought out the ultimate rich guy move and instead of bettering their product line just threw down and bought them both (brush aside that they already owned Ritz and embellish with me).  So now, Marriott (a Chase serviced card) blended themselves with SPG (an Amex serviced card) and had to figure out a way to benumb the banks under the Bonvoy name because both banks beyond doubt burned for a bit of that Bonvoy branding.

Marriott decided to have high-tier and mid-tier card offers. Amex, being the high-tier bank that it is, took the high-tier Bonvoy Brilliant.  Chase, being the bank of the people, took the more budget mid-tier Bonvoy Boundless.  Everyone was blissful, and everything made sense.  Except for the Ritz card, despite being high-tier, was bound to Chase. Oh, and the mid-tier SPG became a regular old Bonvoy card that didn’t get a fun “b” name and stayed with Amex. So now there’s a high-tier Bonvoy and mid-tier Bonvoy at Amex and a high-tier Ritz and mid-tier Bonvoy at Chase. Everything still totally makes total sense.

In their defense, Marriott stopped Ritz applications and the new Bonvoy blank was never open to applications to begin with, so these cards will eventually be lost from brecciation (barring that you can still boost a Bonvoy Boundless to the Ritz and bust a Bonvoy Brilliant below to the Bonvoy blank).  Ok, I’m done.

Boundless Perks

The Bonvoy Boundless is a pretty decent card for the fee, making it a great option for your collection under MLA waiver.  The sign-up bonus is likely its most attractive feature, but it also has an annual free night after the first year on your account anniversary for rooms up to 35k Marriott points.  This is all well and good, but as mentioned above, you can upgrade this to the Ritz card after a year of ownership and make the free night limited to 50k points and add in a $300 airline incidental credit.

Other less interesting features include 15 elite qualification nights (not stackable with other cards so you likely have this already from the high-tier Bonvoy offerings), silver status (yawn), 6x points per Bonvoy dollar spend, 2x elsewhere, and various insurances.

Be Bold. Be Boundless. Be Bonvoy.

As always, please consider using our referral link to get yours.

The Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Card

Ritz Carlton Rewards Card Review for Military

Everything on this tray was delicious and included in First Class

Note: This card is no longer open to new applicants.  If you have a Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card for over a year you can product change to the Ritz. Read about the updated version here.

I’ve been putting off writing this post since there are so many benefits to this card and I haven’t been sure where to start.  But since I just used this card for an excellent first-class upgrade on United and took a nice promo pic, I suppose now is the time to buckle down and type.

Ritz Card Hand Feel

Let’s start with the basics.  This is the exclusive card offered for Ritz Carlton and Ritz did its ritzy thing by making it the heaviest card on the market (As of the new Bonvoy merger this card reverted to metalcore, a far cry from its once lavish hand feel.  In return for this blasphemy, it now comes with annual free nights, so, I guess I’ll let it slide).  By far.  It’s noticeably the heaviest card you can apply for and get without seven figures in the bank.  I can count the number of times it hasn’t been commented on by cashiers on one hand.  It’s solid metal, no laminate here. Its sign-up bonus is also 2 nights at any tier 1-4 Ritz (out of a 5 tier system) for $4k spend in three months.  A weekend at the Ritz for free? Count me in.

The Ritz Card came with one of the most lavish welcome packages.

Airline Incidental Reimbursement

The card is offered to John Q. Public for a lofty $450/year but once again, this doesn’t apply to active duty.  For that annual fee, you can immediately cut off $300 in airline incidental reimbursement.  This is my favorite feature of the card not because it pays me $300/year to own it, but unlike the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve, you have to call in to request your reimbursements.  That doesn’t sound like a great feature but it kind of is, at least for me.

All this for a credit card

Forced First-Class

See, with automated airline incidental reimbursements we all just find the loopholes and cash them out for gift certs or stash them away in the United travel bank (RIP Travel Bank), which is great for making more free travel.  But by making you call in your reimbursements it cuts out the loopholes and forces you to stick to the intended use of this reimbursement, which is incidentals.

This creates a need to cash in on luxury instead of straight airfare.  I have to get creative each year on each flight I take to make the most out my $300 on in-flight drinks, food, and most importantly, seat upgrades.  You will fly a lot more first-class with this perk than you would if you could just bank this money because it forces you to spend on upgrades if you want to make the most out of your yearly perk.  I promise you, a first-class seat on a 4-hour flight is worth every penny of the $159 United charges when the Ritz Card is footing the bill.

Ritzy Ritz Hotel Perks

The card also comes with Gold status at the Ritz for the first year, but you already have this from the Amex Plat.  It has a pathway to platinum status but you have to spend $75k in a year and that’s money better spent on other cards’ minimum spends.  The Ritz perks really shine with the 3 club level upgrades you get every year on paid stays up to 7 nights and the $100 room credit on those stays of 2 nights or more.  If you stay with Ritz a lot this card is worth more than the annual fee just in hotel perks.

No fuss on the front of this elegant hunk of metal.

Airfare Discounts

For the travel aspect, we get another priority pass along with a $100 airfare discount when 2-5 roundtrip tickets are booked through the visa infinite airfare portal.  And of course, global entry/TSA Precheck reimbursement and waived foreign transaction fees, because who doesn’t offer that these days?

Coverages?

All the coverages: baggage delay, lost luggage, primary auto rental, purchase protection, trip cancellation, and trip delay reimbursements.  This card does everything in a way only the Ritz can bring to the table.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred Review for Military

I think this is one of the best card designs in the Chase lineup.

What was once the flagship card of Chase has since been downgraded to the mid-tier offering since the release of the Sapphire Reserve. This used to be the cool card on the block with its metal core adding a nice hand feel, sleek face with embossed numbers moved to the back, and ever so lucrative rewards points. It is now the cool card for people scared of the $450 annual fee on the Reserve.

Sign-Up Bonus

The preferred comes with an annual fee of $95 that was once waived the first year but has been replaced by a higher signup bonus of 60k points, up from 50k, for $4k spend in 3 months. The sign-up bonus alone is worth $750 through the Chase travel portal so it’s at least on the same page as the Reserve.

Spending Bonuses

Other than the sign-up bonus you get 2x points on travel and dining, various coverages, and no foreign transaction fees. It’s a decent card to have but is dwarfed by the Reserve and thanks to Chase’s policy of no more than 1 sapphire product at a time you, the active-duty military member, are better off going with the Reserve.

The Chase United Club Card

United Club Card Review for Military

That martini was both dirty and free making it the best kind of martini

This is probably the perfect time to blog about the United Club Card as I’m sitting in a United club in Newark downing my second dirty martini of the stay. This is one of the 5/24 cards that you will either end up with now or end up within a year depending on the approach you take listed in my 5/24 post.

United Lounge Access

The United club card is a $450/year card (waived under MLA) that gains you a membership to United’s lounges. This in and of itself is a perfect reason to add it to your card portfolio, however, there are many more.

Heaviest card packaging I’ve come across

Sign-Up Bonus

Currently, there is a 50k mile bonus for $3k spend in 3 months. That’s at least 2 round trip tickets anywhere in the continental US.  On top of the $550 lounge membership, the value is limited only by your flexibility of flights.

Free Bags and Foreign Transactions

You also get first and second bags checked for free for yourself and one companion, but I’ve never had to utilize this feature due to United already waiving bag fees for active duty military. There are also no foreign transaction fees, but that’s obvious at this point for a $450 card.

The metal core makes this card akin to a firm handshake

Premier Access

The realized perks come when you utilize premier access, access to special card member miles redemption rates, fee waiver for short suspense booking, and a jump to the head of the line on upgrades if you also hold status with United.

Hertz Status

One of my goals is to acquire status everywhere I can for free. It’s like the ultimate travel hack aphrodisiac. This card grants me Presidents Circle with Hertz. That’s their top tier and gets you consistant car class upgrades. On a free to active duty card. Just stop reading and sign up now.

When this arrived I thought it was a book from Amazon.

United Club Extras

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that this card comes with ALL the coverages. Primary auto rental, baggage delay, lost luggage, trip cancellation and trip interruption, trip delay, purchase protection, price protection, extended warranty, and even something called visa concierge that I’ve never used. That’s a lot of coverage that you’ll probably never use but it’s nice to know it’s there. And this card is free for you, defender of Uncle Sam. Did I mention that yet?

I’m going to call it here, the letters on my iPad are starting to blur, which is the best way to spend a 4hr layover.

Read More

The Chase IHG Premier Card

IHG Premier Card Review for Military

This is the old IHG Select card that I have while I wait for an upgrade offer to the new IHG Premier card

If you’re going TDY, odds are Uncle Sam is putting you up in a hotel within the IHG lineup.  How do I know that?  IHG won the bid to privatize all on post lodging across the Army.  That means your forever stay at the Army Logistics University will be in a recently built and taken over hotel owned by IHG, paid for by TDY funding, and easily taken advantage of by having an IHG rewards account.  Intro: the IHG rewards card.

IHG Premier Sign-Up Bonus

This card is a hidden gem among credit cards with its paltry $89 annual fee (again, free to you Mr. Active Duty under MLA).  What you get, however, is worth so much more.  To begin, it comes with a normal sign-up bonus of 80k IHG points for an EASY $2k spend in 3 months.  Seriously, that should take 1 month if you plan it right, tops. I’ve seen limited-time bonuses as high as 120k pop up from time to time so maybe wait for something like that to come around if you have time.

IHG Premier Free Night Benefit

Then, as if that wasn’t enough to get the card (it is absolutely enough) you get a free night every year (starting after your first year) at any IHG property that’s up to and including 40k points/night.  Granted, IHG properties are generally budget locations, but the Intercontinental lineup is no slouch.  That’s an easy date night when you finally get that match on Tinder.  Better still is a 4th award night free feature that gives you your fourth night free when booking with points.

IHG Premier Platinum Status

But wait, there’s more!  As if you haven’t already applied at this point, this card even grants you Platinum Elite status with IHG hotels.  That’s the second to highest tier in their rewards structure.  Granted, if you played the ALU right you already have Spire Elite status, but for those non-loggie officers out there this is probably the easiest hotel status to acquire.  Just what does this status grant? Sweet sweet room upgrades.  Also guaranteed room availability, priority check-in, and 50% bonus earnings on base points.  More specifically, 50% bonus earning on base points that the Army is already paying for as long as you add your account at the front desk.  Talk about a win/win.

Oh, be sure to add an authorized user for another 5k points after your first purchase if offered.

This card is a no-brainer.  Just don’t get confused and accidentally get the IHG Traveler card, which is lame unless you want another IHG signup bonus.

As always, please consider using our referral link to get yours.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve Review for Military

This card came out as a direct competitor to the AMEX Platinum and that just means more bennies for the taking after your MLA fee waiver.  Chase made this card a metal hybrid with a metal core sandwiched between thin plastic.  It’s got a good hand feel and great design.  Benefits include a 50k Chase Ultimate Reward point bonus for $4k spend in the first 3 months, $300 travel reimbursement per year, airport lounge access, 3x points on travel and dining purchases, and a slew of other overlapping benefits with other premium cards.  This is one of the best everyday cards to use if you had to choose one without thinking and are in-between meeting minimum spends on other cards.

I get that the blacked-out design makes this a more mysterious card, but I’ve always liked the CSP look better

Sign-Up Bonus

50k Ultimate Rewards points goes a long way on the Chase travel portal if you have the Reserve.  Directly redeemable for $500 in cash, it bumps up to 1.5 cents per point on the portal making you a cool $750 in travel rewards, just for changing your payment method for 3 months.  Easy, free money.  Chase also has a ton of transfer partners giving you a lot of ways to redeem these generous bonus points.

Travel Reimbursement

The Reserve travel reimbursement is much more flexible than the AMEX airline reimbursement as it will automatically reimburse, up to $300/year, ANY charge that codes as travel.  Need to buy plane tickets? Pay for parking? Stay at a hotel? All reimbursed.  It’s the second-best premium card benefit on the market right now, in my wise guy opinion (second to the $325 reimbursement with the Altitude Reserve).

Airport Lounge Access

Airport lounge access comes in the form of a priority pass membership.  This gives you access to many fringe lounges in the US and a ton of regular lounges internationally.  It also goes above and beyond the Amex PP memberships because it allows the use of the $28 bill credit at participating airport restaurants. This particular membership also allows you to take 2 companions in with you in case your TDY buddy is still waiting for his in the mail.

Spending Bonuses

3x points for travel and dining purchases will rack up Ultimate Rewards points fast, giving even more FREE MONEY or travel possibilities to you just for using this card instead of that USAA debit card I see every time I’m in the PX.  I don’t consider this a huge benefit since I’m always working on a minimum spend for something, and sign up bonuses are worth more than 3x points on spending, but if you don’t take as aggressive of an approach to the credit card game as I do, it will be a great every day spend benefit to reap what the cash/debit population sews.