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Your Questions Answered
All of this week I am going to be answering reader’s questions. To ask a question yourself, feel free to leave a comment over on this original post.
Here are the previous posts from this round of questions:
Question 1 – Chase Ultimate Rewards Devaluation?
Our first question comes from Anthony:
If you had to choose only yes or no, do you see a future devaluation with Chase and it’s UR partners as a continuation of its recent negative changes?
There’s been a lot of negative news coming from Chase lately, including heavy fines. Chase is even pulling affiliate links for some. I personally believe they’re not changing the UR system. At least not this year. If you’d of asked me this question a few months ago I’d of not entertained the idea. It’s an interesting question though in the wake of recent changes.
Wow! Tough question Anthony and obviously one I can only answer with opinions as opposed to facts. As I wrote in my very controversial post about Chase’s new churning policies being a good business decision, I think we have seen them reevaluate their business strategy overall. That has resulted in some very noticeable changes.
Among those changes are:
- Less products overall (They dropped the Sapphire, Ink Bold & Ink Classic)
- Less benefits (dropped Sapphire Preferred annual dividend, Freedom checking account bonus, Ink lounge access)
- Tighter approval processes (Especially for Ultimate Rewards and business cards.)
The Fines Seem Large
You mention the recent fines. I don’t think these will have much of an impact on their bottom line. While I think Chase will clean up their act, the truth is $200 million doesn’t really even put a dent in them financially. As a whole, Chase’s net income was $5.9 billion dollars just in the first quarter of this year. Things are going quite well over there.
Businesses of course are always looking to make the most profit possible. That is the motivation that I believe is driving these changes. We all know their previous strategy was wasteful on many levels and they are now trying to correct for that. I think the interesting thing to look at is if they go too far. Only time will tell.
As for Ultimate Rewards, I don’t think we will see any major changes coming. Chase has long term contracts with the various transfer partners and things may change when those are renegotiated, but that isn’t happening soon.
The real reason Ultimate Rewards is the king of flexible points currencies has to do with those transfer partners. United, Southwest & Hyatt add a ton of value to Ultimate Rewards because they are valuable currencies and because they aren’t really transfer partners of other programs. (Yes United is a SPG partner, but the 2 to 1 rate is terrible.)
If you look at those partners closely though, you can see that they have all devalued significantly in the past couple of years. Hyatt added a category 7 to their program, Southwest cheapened their points and then took away a fixed value altogether and United gutted their award chart for premium cabin redemptions. All of those things devalued Ultimate Rewards. The program isn’t as shiny and valuable as it was just two years ago.
Will We See Changes
I honestly don’t think we will see any changes to those partners, but we may see one or two smaller partners come or go. United became a transfer partner in 2011 and I believe Hyatt’s deal dates back to 2010. In other words those contracts are fairly new and I don’t believe Chase’s costs will increase significantly in the next couple of years. (With that said, I was unable to find firm end dates for any UR partner contracts.)
Chase knows Ultimate Rewards is their ace in the hole. While I think we will continue to see products tweaks and changes, I don’t think the Ultimate Rewards program will change significantly over the next couple of years. The partners have devalued to maintain their profits and Chase is making changes in other ways.
Of course, that is just my opinion. Great question. Thanks Anthony!
Question 2 – Multiple Staples Rewards Accounts?
Our second question comes from Bluehorseshoe:
For programs like Staples Rewards, is it kosher to have two household accounts with same address? One in each spouse’s name? Does this let you take advantage of quantity limited promotions?
This is a good question since there can be a lot of value in Staples Rewards. I have showed you in the past just how valuable their ink recycling program is, so why not try to double that for a couple? Unfortunately Staples doesn’t like this.
They bury it deep in the terms (#14) of their program, but here is the language they use:
Staples Rewards accounts are limited to one account per eligible customer; each email address and mailing address are also limited to one account.
Now I know couples who have more than one account and I firmly believe there are legitimate reasons to have more than one account. One simple way to get around their rule is to use a business address. After all, two people with the same home address can have separate businesses. This is a fairly easy rule to get around, but one you should be aware of.
There is one other thing to consider. If you ever try to use Rewards from two separate accounts on the same transaction then those accounts will magically be merged together. This has not happened to me, but a few friends have experienced it. If you do have more than one account in your household, keep them separate.
Thanks for the question! More Q&A tomorrow.
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