A Chicago O’Hare Induced Near Panic Attack and the Value of Knowledge

This is a typical story about a country boy who goes to the big city.

In our story today, I’m the country boy and Chicago is the big city.  Yesterday, I arrived on US soil for the first time in seven months.  What I didn’t know when I arrived into Chicago O’Hare airport …

By the way, I guess I should tell you that I flew from Phuket to Seoul to Chicago to Toronto on Asiana Airlines on United for $52 out of pocket.  You didn’t actually expect this story to involve me paying for a ticket, did you?

Anyway, back to the Chicago O’Hare airport.

The airport has turned into the largest advertising set that I’ve seen in a long time.

I should have been smart enough to get some pictures, but since I had already been traveling for 20 hours with young kids, my brain wasn’t fully functioning.

So let me paint the picture for you:

  • When we were approaching the escalator to Terminal 1, I noticed the handle of the escalator had text all over it.  It was a moving advertisement for the Chase United credit card.
  • Then there was a huge banner overhead promoting the card.
  • At main entry levels, there were people trying to get travelers to sign up for the credit card.
  • On the flight, there was an insert in the seat back pocket promoting the card.
  • There were more signs plastered all over the airport.
Those were just the things I noticed in a near comatosed state.

What caused my near panic attack?

There were actually people at the booths signing up for the card with a 25,000 point sign up bonus and the opportunity to earn up to 40,000 miles (5,000 for authorized user and 10,000 for spending $25,000 in a calendar year).

I wanted to go over and say, “Hi, I’m Craig, and I run a blog called Help Me Travel Cheap.  Yes, I know that the title is grammatically incorrect, but I know that I can help you earn more miles by being smarter with your credit card applications.”

But I didn’t .

I suspect that I’d at least make enemies with the folks at the sign up tables, and at most, I’d probably be breaking some law about soliciting in an airport.

Just this morning I checked to confirm that I can still go to the United page,  sign into my account, and see a better offer.  Here’s what I found.

First, when you go to United.com you’ll see an offer for 40,000.


United 40,000

However, if you sign into your account (and you have an account balance), you’ll likely be able to see a better offer.

United Sign In

After clicking on ‘Learn More’ after signing in, I’m taken to an offer with 50,000 points after first purchase and 5,000 points for adding an authorized user.

United 50,000 offer

Only part of what really caused my concern was that there were people signing up for this inferior offer.  People do it all the time.

But two other things bothered me.

First, did they realize that, for spending, they were almost certainly better off having the Chase Sapphire Preferred?  Spending on the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining out.  Also, the Ultimate Rewards points are much more flexible with several transfer partners like Southwest, British Airways, United and more.  I suspect a lot of people would sign up for the card and start doing most of their spending on it and bragging to friends about free flights.  Even though, with a little collaborative effort, they could be earning at least twice as many points.

Second, did they know that if they later learned about a better offer (usually within 3 months), they could send a secure message to Chase to ask them to match the better offer?

Instead of having a panic attack, I decided to do something a little more productive.  Today, I want to remind you of my free credit card consult service.  You tell me what cards you currently have or you tell me your preferred travel destination, and I’ll help you discover the cards that best suit your needs.

If you want a credit card consult, you can do that now at no cost.


  1. says

    Craig, thanks for the reminder. I’ve already gotten the points from my sapphire card, and the other one is the Continental card. Sounds like this United card would be a good grab as well, and then I could cancel one of the airline cards before paying the next fee (I’ll be paying a fee for the Continental in October, I think). It’s working out well because Taca is the international airline we use the most, and they’re part of Star Alliance. Kinda handy that either way I’ll have a card that might give me more miles when I buy that flight. ;)


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