Monday, March 16, 2015

How I earned 5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on my recent Hyatt stay.

Earning 5% or more on purchases can boost your point balance significantly, but most credit cards put limits on the bonus categories that offer 5% back.  I use the Chase Freedom Card, which offers 5X Ultimate Rewards Points back on quarterly categories up to $1500 each quarter, and the American Express Blue Cash preferred, which offers 6% back on up to $6000 in grocery purchases annually. 

Since the beginning of January, I've been putting all of my grocery purchases on the Chase Freedom to earn 5 points per dollar since groceries are included in the first quarter bonus categories, and once I reach my quarterly cap, I'll begin using the Blue Cash preferred to earn 6% cash back.  I easily spend $7500 on food and gas throughout the year, and I purchase gas gift cards at the grocery store to maximize my 5X Point bonus.  But that's not enough for me.  I want my restaurants and travel purchases to earn me 5% back as well.

Enter the Chase Ink Plus card.  This card earns you 5X Ultimate Rewards Points on office supply store purchases with an incredible $50,000 cap.  While you may not have any need to purchase office supplies, this is the perfect opportunity for a simple form of manufactured spending: gift card purchases.

I had booked a weekend vacation for just over $425 dollars which included one night at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands and one night at the Hyatt Regency Monterey.  I remembered just before I drove down to Carmel that we had recently seen Hyatt gift cards at Safeway.  I could have purchased it directly at the grocery store, but that just meant I'd reach my bonus cap that much sooner. In fact, had I put the purchase on my Freedom card, I would have surpassed my bonus limit by over $200, and thus would have only earned 5X Points on half the transaction.  Fortunately, I also remembered I had seen Safeway gift cards for sale at Office Max, so I made a quick stop there and purchased $425 worth of Safeway gift cards on my Chase Ink Plus.  I then drove to Safeway and used my gift cards to purchase the Hyatt gift card.
Purchasing a Hyatt gift card using Safeway gift cards from OfficeMax
earned me 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar.
This earned me 2,125 Ultimate rewards points, which can be converted at a 1:1 ratio to Hyatt points if I choose.  Had I opted to use my Chase Hyatt card, I would have only earned 1275 Hyatt points.  I also could have chosen to put this purchase on my Blue Cash Preferred, in which case I could have earned $25.50 cash back.  But since I will spend $6000 at the grocery store between now and the end of the year anyway, it was best to put this on the Ink Plus.   I will never hit the $50,000 cap that the Ink Plus offers.

I also earned $1.00 off per Gallon via Safeway Fuel Rewards

As an added bonus, Safeway offers 2x Gas points per dollar spent on gift cards, which can be redeemed for fuel discounts.  The $425 dollar Hyatt spend along with some other gift card purchases earned me $1.00 off per gallon (the maximum you can earn)

While I used this method to earn me extra points for my Hyatt stay, it applies to most of their other gift cards as well.  Safeway and some other grocery stores now sell gift cards from Target, Southwest Airlines, Disney, specialty restaurants such as the Counter Burger, and specialty stores such as Pottery Barn.

A few things to consider if you'd like to go this route: not all office supply stores sell grocery store gift cards, and not all grocery stores have this expanded gift card selection.  Even if your local Office Supply store sells grocery store gift cards, you should check your grocery store before you purchase those gift cards to see if they have what you're looking for.  Additionally, the OfficeMax where I purchased the Safeway gift cards only sold them in $25 denominations, which meant purchasing and using 17 gift cards to make this work.  Also, some stores may have policies against using a credit card to purchase gift cards or using one type of gift card to purchase another kind of gift card.  Always do your research on your store's policy first, or you may end up stuck with unwanted gift cards.

Summary: The idea of buying gift cards at a local office supply store to get extra points isn't new, but your office supply store might not have the gift card you want.  Some points bloggers recommend purchasing Visa gift cards, but these come with a $5-$6 fee per $100 gift card, and this fee devalues the points you earn.  However, if your Office supply store sells grocery store gift cards, you now have one more tool in the bag to earn 5% back on many more of your purchases throughout the year with no extra fees.

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