My 2012 Points Strategy: Taking Credit Card Inventory

by on January 3, 2012 · 74 comments

in American Express, Chase, Citi, Credit Cards

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

This is an installment in the My 2012 Points Strategy Series. Posts include: Taking Credit Card InventoryFuture Credit Card ApplicationsAirline Elite StatusHotel Elite Status. This week I’ll be highlighting my strategy for 2012 as it relates to all things points and miles including my credit card strategy  as well as airline and hotel loyalty plans. As I highlighted last week, I ended up getting over 600,000 miles and points from credit card sign-up bonuses last year. Along with my actual spend and various bonuses and promotions, it was by far my #1 source of miles and points. With applications and approvals my score dropped about 16 points, but increased by more than that because I pay off my balances every month (the biggest factor of a solid credit score) and I pay them all on time. There is no magic number on how many credit cards you can get, but I know I am by no means pushing the limit. I have points-obsessed friends with more cards than they can fit in a ziploc bag (you know who you are) who still have strong scores. Most people think that opening credit cards will hurt your score irreparably, but as long as you have good credit and are financially responsible, the effects are negligible and the benefits (free travel) are well worth it – at least for me. The first thing I recommend doing is laying out all of your current, active credit cards and label them keep, cancel or to be decided. While canceling a credit card can temporarily impact your credit score by decreasing the amount of available credit you have, it can make sense in certain situations (check out this post for more info). Here is my current list of keep/cancel/TBD. Tomorrow I’ll highlight which cards I have on my “must get” list for 2012 and my thought process behind when I’m going to apply for each. Keep: Sapphire Preferred: My #1 card when I’m not working on hitting a spend threshold on other cards. Key benefits: double points on travel (and you don’t have to book it through Chase and it even includes taxis, subways and parking) and dining. 7% annual bonus on all points earned each year (including the sign-up bonus!). No foreign transaction fees and it’s either a Visa Signature or World Mastercard, so it’s accepted globally in many places. $95 annual fee, but free for the first year. American Express Premier Rewards Gold: In my opinion this is the best Amex card. It gives 3 points per dollar on airfare (4x if booked through Amex travel), 2 on gas and groceries and 1 on everything else. There are foreign transaction fees, so I never use it abroad or for purchases from foreign companies. You also get 15,000 bonus points for spending $30,000 per calendar year. I like my Amex points because Amex runs transfer bonuses, like the current 30% to British Airways. I think Chase Ultimate Rewards points are more valuable because they are good hotel options as well, but I don’t like to put all of my points in one basket. Chase Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards. This is the business version of the Sapphire Preferred and it gives me 5 points per dollar at office supply store purchases, cellular/landline phone service, and cable service and 2 points per dollar on gas, hotels and motels. These points can be combined with my Sapphire points, so it’s a nice combination, since this card is a charge card which allows me to spend more monthly versus the Sapphire Preferred which is a credit card. Cancel: Citi American Airlines cards. The 75,000 point bonuses were great, but these cards don’t do anything for me, even though I am flying American more these days. American decided to stop counting credit card miles towards million miler status in December of 2011, so why would I want to bank 1 mile per dollar to only AA, when I can bank to Chase and Amex and have tons of transfer partners and earn much more than 1 mile per dollar on certain categories? Before canceling, I’m going to try to downgrade one of these cards to the Citi Forward card, which has no annual fee and gives 5 points per dollar on dining (they can’t be transferred to any airlines, but 5% cash back is good). I probably won’t even use the card because I’d rather have 2.14 Chase Sapphire Preferred points per dollar spent on dining (which I can then transfer to United/British Airways/Hyatt) to book expensive flights and hotels. To Be Decided: American Express Platinum card.  I go back and forth on this one and will actually be writing a dedicated blog post on the subject, because I know many of you are in the same boat. I got the card with a 100,000 point sign-up bonus, so it was a no-brainer. However, after the first year when those bonus points are realized and some perks like the Global Entry credit are exhausted, it becomes much more of a difficult decision to renew. My biggest gripe is that I only earn 1 point per dollar on all purchases. On the upside it does get my lounge access to my two primary carriers, American and Delta, which I especially need since I am dropping from Delta Diamond Medallion to Platinum on March 1 so I’ll lose the SkyClub access. More to come on this decision. Chase British Airways Visa: I got it for the 100,000 sign-up bonus last May (like many of you) and haven’t used it much since. However, I am toying with the idea of trying to spend $30,000 to get the companion ticket, which can be very valuable (although comes with high taxes and fees). Additionally, British Airways recently “revitalized” their frequent flyer program and some of the best redemptions were gutted, though there still is immense value in the new Avios program, which I touched on in this post, but will be writing about in more detail soon. Stay tuned. Update: The current sign-up bonus offer for the British Airways Visa is 50,000 Avios. 25,000 upon first use, and another 25,000 when you spend $2,500 within 90 days.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Previous post:

Next post:

  • guest

    I have one of the Citi American airlines cards and have not used it since I got the 75,000 point bonus. Would it be beneficial (however slightly) for my credit score to downgrade the card to a Citi Forward card rather than cancel it. I’m young and the only part of my credit score that is low is the length of time I’ve kept cards.

  • Anonymous

    I am with you on the Amex Platinum. My year is up at the end of the month. I finally made my decision – I used my $200 credit for this year to renew my sky club membership for $300, so it will actually cost me $100 out of pocket for club access through March 1, 2013. Amex Rep confirmed last night it would definitely work for that. So the plat card is gone!

  • LarryInNYC


    Do you know if the Chase Sapphire card will pick up:

    1. Metrocard charges from the machines in the NYC subway system


    2. Monthly parking charges from a parking company in Manhattan?

  • Anonymous

    Yes to both

  • the real Mike Burk

    The Sapphire give 3x on travel if booked through Ultimate Rewards website. I have also switched all spending to this card. Best card out there in my opinion!

  • tassojunior

    The Virgin Atlantic which gives 1.5 miles on everything is my go-to. Those VS miles can be used on CO & US plus many partners. ( I also put my Hertz & Avis rental on VS ff for the 1000 miles per rental).

  • infamousdx

    Definitely interested to hear your take on the Platinum card as well. I was lucky enough to get a fee-waived Plat last year along with the 100k bump the bonus so this year won’t hurt as much. But still, $450 is so much to pay…

  • Alan

    There’s a Visa Signature sign on the back of the Chase Sapphire Card, how come it is either a Visa Signature or World Mastercard? This is not the first time I heard this, but I am still a bit confused. Guys, please help clarify. Thanks.

  • Angelina Aucello

    Did anyone have a problem downgrading the Chase British AIrways Visa to the Chase Freedom? Were you able to get the new member bonus on the Freedom?

  • Dan Lack

    Any tips on how to get the first year fee waived on the platinum amex plus how to get the 100k signup bonus? I’m thinking about getting this card, and will definitely get it if i can get the fee waived and 100k bonus.

  • Dan Lack

    Any tips on how you were able to get the fee waived on the plat amx?

  • infamousdx

    No tips. I applied like most other people using TPG’s link last year. It had to be random and VERY lucky. Note: I didn’t call and get the fee waived. The terms that came along with the card stated the $0 annual fee for the first year.

  • Tt

    besides the 200$ fee to offset the amex plat fee, it also has higher LIMITS on purchase protection, return protection, warranty protection, and other shopping benefits.

  • Jake Olson

    Does the Premier Rewards Gold ever bump up in the sign up bonus? Or is 15,000 a good place to go ahead and apply?

  • Anonymous

    4X if you book via Travelocity on Ultimate Rewards Mall :)

  • aw

    when I need to get rid of a card with annual fee, should I cancel it or should I switch it to a non-fee card? which way is more negative from credit card company’s point of view?

    Do they care more about my total credit line, or the number of the cards I have with them?

    it is true that my credit will be hurt if i cancel a card since my credit limit will decrease. on the other hand, there is an upper limit that a credit company is willing to lend to one.


  • Anonymous

    You have the choice of getting the Sapphire Preferred as a World Mastercard as well. I think the default is Visa Signature, but if you call them you can get the World Mastercard version. I don’t think the perks are very different

  • Jon S

    This was a really helpful post. TPG, when are you thinking of actually closing the AA cards? Just before the fee is due? I have those 2 plus 2 other no-fee cards from Citi (MTVu and Forward) which I will keep, because I like the 5 points per dollar on meals and they have an annual points cap of 75K each of which I hit. Should I try to move the credit from my two AA cards onto the other cards to minimize the hit on my score?

  • Jerlovestravel

    TPG, just a quick note that the Ink Bold card does NOT get 2x on dining. It’s only gas, hotels, and motels unfortunately.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • chris v

    Question on the Sapphire preferred bonus -

    I have had a normal Chase Sapphire (non-preferred) account for years now. I would like to open the new Preferred account, but will I still be eligible for the bonus and first year free waiver?

    Would I have more luck on-line or trying to call them directly? I would cancel / transfer the credit limit on my old account if they allowed the new one to open.

  • Aaron

    This hasn’t been around in a while, and even when it was it was very targeted which Amex has since cracked down on. Best offer for now is 50k, and they almost never waive the fee.

  • Aaron

    I’m keeping the AA Visa around for a small monthly spend – when I called to cancel/seek retention bonus, they gave me a statement credit equal to the annual fee, and offered 750 bonus miles for $750 min spend per statement. I use this card to pay rent, so 2x miles on rent is a good deal for me.

  • MN1971

    Regarding the Amex Platinum It hurts when I have to pay $450 in annual fees but it really pays of when you use the perks that comes with the card. I travel with my family for vacation domestically and internationally and to be able to use the Delta and AA lounges with the kids while waiting for the flight is priceless. Also, the $200 in airlines fees comes very handy when using miles for international tickets since you can use the $200 toward the fees you pay for the award ticket. That is a card that I will keep in my wallet in 2012.

  • Nathan

    Brian, I might cancel my Chase BA Visa, partially in the hopes that they’ll reprise their 100k offer of last year. However, as it turns out, we ended 2011 with a big purchase (automobile) and politely but firmly insisted that the deal hinged on $xx,000 being put on said credit card. The dealership agreed, the charge was posted as 10:30p on December 30th, and according to Chase will indeed be counted in our 2011 spend. Which means, kind readers and TPG, that we’ve seemingly scored a companion ticket! Woo-hoo!! (Per Chase, the award should be acknowledged by BA in 6-8 weeks. We’ll see; I don’t think highly of BA’s customer service until at the airport…)

  • Flyer Fun

    Have had Amex Platinum for years (before they were giving bonuses). Cannot justify the fee rationally. Basically, I trust Amex more than Chase, Citibank, or other credit card issuers. I also think (perhaps erroneously) that Amex Platinum would be good to have in a crisis {lose card, lose all cash, lose passport, or get sick while traveling (that type of thing.)} When you review, please comment.

  • Raj B

    Great post, Brian. Agree with you on the Chase Sapphire Preferred (love the UR mall bonuses) and AMEX PRG cards. My #3 is the AMEX SPG for all other purchases & Starwood stays.

    Same dilemma with the AMEX platinum. Living in the big Delta city, there’s no real advantage to the $200 airline reimbursement since I’m able to maintain status. However, the platinum card does give you the better Membership Rewards First program, plus you get rebates on booking travel — 20% points back, I believe.

  • Mollydog

    Assuming the Continental Onepass card doesn’t go away right away (assuming that because it’s still advertised on Chase’s website), what makes the Chase Sapphire card a better card? I have both and am trying to rationalize which to keep. Onepass gives you 10k points on $25k of spend whereas for the same spend, Sapphire only gives you a 1750 bonus. What am I missing?

  • Anonymous

    Depends what that $25k is- if travel and dining then sapphire blows away continental. If not, chase points can be transferred to a number of partners- not the case with continental miles

  • Scotti Mac

    Hey TPG great post. I have been following your comments on the chase card for a while now. Is the current offer of 50K points a good one ore should I hold out for a better bonus later in the year?

  • Anonymous

    50k is good- I see it going down before it goes up, but no one really knows

    Some people get targeted mailings directly from chase for 100k but I wouldn’t holdy breath for it

  • Adam

    One plus on the BA card – you can get a chip and pin version, helpful for international travel

  • MN1971

    I used the $200 to get back the fees that Delta charged for 3 international award tickets I issued to my family. Thus, if you redeem miles for an award and pay the fees with the amex Platinum you get the $200 back.

  • Brad J

    Would love an answer to this as I am in same dilemma

  • scott

    Amex Platinum: cancelling the extra card ($125 fee) was easy, and eventually decided to lose the main $450 card also. Problem was this is my oldest line of credit, so important part of my credit record. Ended up downgrading to $95 Amex green card. Still have the SPG Gold status which came with it. Anyone know when/if that disappears?

    Citi AA cards: called to cancel them both prior to annual fee. For the Visa card, they gave me a statement credit for the amount of the fee. It hit up a month before the fee was actually billed. For the Amex, they offered to credit back the fee after 5 transactions. No limit on how big they need to be. So I’m holding onto all for another year.

    US Airways: Called to cancel the card, and they offered to downgrade to a no-fee card, so kept that also.

  • Anonymous

    Just a footnote regarding AMEX Platinum. AMEX has In-Site, an app you install in your browser and has a lot of option where you can get 4X bonus points, additional discounts, etc, so the Platinum could be used and still earn multiple points for purchases. Maybe not as rich as UR Mall but pretty good anyway.

  • Raj B

    Oh, wow. Thanks — will definitely try this the next time I book a DL award.

  • David

    15,000 is pretty weak for ANY card really! For me that isn’t worth a credit inquiry. Last year many people got it for 50,000 and 75,000 points.

  • Jake Olson

    Kinda what I thought, but I haven’t seen much on this particular card. Thanks!

  • David

    It has to be coded right by the vendor. If not, no bonus points – even if you write in about it! I went through my statements for 6 months and found over $2,500 in travel where I only received 1 point per dollar. Sent in a message and went back and forth with CSR’s but they refuse to honor bonus points and state that it’s only based on the merchants category and they don’t allowanual changes.
    Small Latin American travel companies I can understand not having a travel merchant code, but I didn’t even get 2 points per dollar for an ever save travel purchase of $700+, or 2 Thalys train tickets in Europe for $350… C’mon Chase!! I will be blogging about it.

  • PJ

    i would go ahead and apply the Preferred trying to get the 50K sign on bonus; they might ask you to turn in one card after you call in Reconsideration line= that is the stragety i am going with my daughter’s Sapphire ( regular) she was targeted back in last August. 50 K was collected on Sapphire and working on 50K more on Preferred trying to turn in the Sapphire Regular card

  • PJ

    again, try to apply Freedom card and get ready to turn in one card when asked on the Reconsideration line; i turned in BA card and my classmate turned in Marriott card to get Sapphire Preferred. it looks to me they gave me 50K straightly on the 1st purchase. did not matter much i piled up well over the 3000 normal SPEND already in a matter of one month..

  • Rich Bakken

    Thanks TPG…great post again on the cards. Do you know much about the Delta Reserve card?

    Wondering if this might be a good option to consider…the EQM look interesting.

  • PJ

    Brian. wonder why you have been holding out on the CHase Freedom card? 30K UR is close to as ez az 123 and a forever card to keep for me; i have 2 cards since back to the 5 % rebate on Grocery /GAS days I never felt bad i collected $100 then ..

  • Ryan

    I agree and like Chase Sapphire as well but did we forget about the SPG Amex!? SPG points are more valuable (convert to dollars at Starwood hotels at 5%+ in some cases) and can also be transferred to miles on many major airlines just like Chase Sapphire. So I think for categories outside of dining and travel (where you get 2x Sapphire points) and foreign travel (no transaction fee) I think SPG Amex is the card to use for every day use. Thoughts?

  • Anonymous

    Note the Forward card gives 5 points/dollar at bookstores too (ie any purchase from Amazon)

  • Anonymous

    If you value MQMs the Reserve Card is a great option- check out this post

  • Anonymous

    SPG amex has foriegn transaction fees, slow transfer times and no category bonuses . That being said, it still is a strong card- just not the best on the market in my opinion. (Check out my post tomorrow, I’m still going to be getting it this year)

  • Kroozer

    I had same situation. You cannot be approved for Sapphire Preferred (Preferred and non-preferred are considered same product).

    I converted the Sapphire non-preferred into the Chase Freedom card, existing points were retained (but cannot be transferred to travel partners). Few days later I applied for Sapphire Preferred online normally and was approved after calling reconsideration line and partial transfer of credit line from old Freedom to new SP account.

    The Freedom points can be transferred to Sapphire Preferred anytime and then transferred to travel partners as desired. Only downside is the loss of new account bonus points from Chase Freedom application.

    Transfer Freedom points to SP and cancel Freedom account if you choose. Some time later apply for Freedom again with bonus offer (this last step not tested personally yet).

  • Ike

    [QUOTE]why would I want to bank 1 mile per dollar to only AA, when I can bank to Chase and Amex and have tons of transfer partners and earn much more than 1 mile per dollar on certain categories?[/QUOTE]

    I think that this is faulty logic, especially if you are going to be flying on AA and could thus use some of their miles.

    First: If you call up the Citi retention department you can get 1.5-2.0 miles per dollar spent fairly easily, be it a straight multiplier or one of the many iterations of 750 miles for $750 spend in each of X months.

    Second: You can’t transfer UR or MR points directly to AA and the conversion through intermediaries stinks. Spend $50K and get 100,000 MR points and it only equals 33,300 SPG and 38,300 AA. Better to just use the AA card and get 50,000-100,000 AA miles. Granted, less flexible but if you can use AA, using an AA card has advantages.

    Third: You can get reduced-mile award flights if you have the AA Citi card, although they may not be at times or to destinations of your choice.

    Fourth: If the plan is to convert MR to BA with a 30% (or whatever) bonus, and then still fly AA (or other OneWorld airlines), then remember that there is a fee for transfers from MR to airlines as well as fuel surcharges on BA mile redemptions in places there are none for AA. Meaning your “free” ticket just got a lot more expensive.

    Perhaps you still want to dump the AA card, understandable, but at least look at the whole picture.


  • Benthelefty

    I’m in the same boat as you, and I’d say keep the card. I don’t believe there is a knock at all on that…

  • Benthelefty

    Brian, You value the Sapphire Preferred over Forward on dining because of transfer options for premium flights…if I’m only redeeming economy short haul flights, am I being smart to use the forward for the $.05 per dollar? Again, I know the Sapphire value is higher for long haul premium flights, but w/ the short hauls is that a smart strategy you think?

  • Jtgray

    British airways (chase transfer partner) is pretty good for short haul now if you can use American for your needs

  • DeltaDan

    If you book an airfare through AMEX travel (ex. Delta) as you mentioned on the AMEX Premier Rewards, will you also get Delta SkyMiles as well?

  • Jad

    Yes, I charge my Metrocard, EZ pass, and garage parking to Sapphire Pref and get 2x points.

  • Anonymous

    Agree 100% that the top 2 cards are my Amex Premier Rewards Gold and my Sapphire Preferred, and the Ink is a great card if you can get it. However, I don’t have any business, so I’m not eligible. No problem though, my third primary is my Starwood card. I’m still really happy with it, and I get really great value out of the rewards on that card (for anything that doesn’t fall into a bonus category and isn’t foreign spend of course). Also I pay rent with it. I almost get 1 free Cash & Points stay at the Sheraton LAX every month :P

    One card I’m keeping forever is the Barclays US Airways card. Every year I pay the $89 fee (? — haha too many to keep track of, I think that’s what it is) they provide me with 10,000 bonus Dividend Miles, some lounge passes, a $99? companion certificate, 5000 miles off US Air metal redemptions and probably other things that I already get as a Star Alliance Gold. I’d pay 0.9 cents per Dividend Mile all day if I could! No spend requirement, just bonus miles. I pay Netflix with it ;)

    As for my closing, definitely getting rid of any Aeroplan branded cards. One of the best to one of the worst in all of 6 months makes me :( as an Air Canada Elite.

  • Anonymous

    Sure, but even still the AA card isn’t the best way to earn miles unless you call up retentions every year. The Starwood card earns you 1.25AA miles per dollar spent, and gives you the option to transfer to even more partners than MR and UR combined. If you’re just looking to earn AA miles the SPG card is probably your best bet.

  • Anonymous

    AFAIK SPG Gold isn’t automatic and you have to call in annually to re-up to Gold. I think it stays until the end of the current SPG program year.

  • Anonymous

    I believe that you always earn miles on airfare regardless of where you purchased it, so long as it falls into a points-earning fare class. Make sure that the fare class you are booking earns points and you should be good to go.

    Things to remember with the PRG and Amex Travel: There’s a $7 “booking fee” that you will pay for the extra 1 point per dollar spent, which means that in order for it to make sense, you need to be spending at least $700 on airfare. If you’re not, it’s probably not worth booking through Amex Travel.

    While not technically guaranteed, it appears that if you book travel through a third-party booking service such as Expedia or Travelocity (NOT a travel agent as far as I know), the actual fare is charged by the operating carrier, not by Expedia, as though you had purchased it directly through them, but in US Dollars. This MAY allow you to double-dip with BigCrumbs ($3.20 per ticket via Expedia) and MAY save you 2.7% on currency conversion if you’re trying to book a ticket with a foreign airline over booking with them directly. The way I see it, $700, 4X points is better (Amex Travel + PRG). Again, this isn’t “officially supported” and YMMV, but it’s worked for me so far.

  • Charles Clarke

    Are you trying to increase the age of your credit lines? If so, I could understand downgrading the Citi AA cards.

    If not, why not apply for the Citi Forward (there is a link out there for 30K points for $3K spend spread over 9 months), and transfer some of the credit limits from your AA cards before cancelling?

  • Rich Bakken

    Thank you!

  • Jerlovestravel

    Hi TPG, you still have the typo in there that the ink bold gets 2x dining, that needs to be edited so people don’t get their hopes up! :)

  • The Points Guy

    Good catch, fixed it–thanks!

  • guest

    Thanks for the reply. To clarify, does downgrading a card mean for my credit score that I am not cancelling?

  • PMF

    I tried to convert my Citi Visa AAdvantage Card to the Citi Forward, but the service representative said he wasn’t seeing this as an option. Has anyone else run into this difficulty?

  • Pingback: My 2012 Points Strategy: Hotel Elite Status | The Points Guy()

  • Wfjt333

    I was able to downgrade mine to some sort of Citi AA Bronze card with no fee. I don’t plan to use it, but I figured it was better than cancelling.

  • Jimmycopp

    First of all great site!! I read somewhere on your blog that you can use Ultimate Rewards points for air travel and still get the miles and EQMs from the respective airline? If true why would you ever transfer points to miles..its true double dipping! Almost too good to be true..pls explain

  • Anonymous

    When you use it to buy airfare you get 1.25 cents per point. If you transfer to airline to book an award you can get much more than that. For example 80,000 points = $1,000 in airfare/travel or 80,000 points transferred to British airways can equal a round trip business class flight from Miami to Buenos aires that would have cost $6,000 to buy

  • Jimmycopp

    Thanks TPG, that makes sense and is great deal, I never had that much luck cashing in Delta Skymiles…I will keep reading and learning!

  • DavidR

    Right. So if one can receive 4x with Sapphire Preferred if booked via Travelocity on UR Mall, then what reason is there to sign up for Amex PRG at this point in time?

  • Anonymous

    2x gas and groceries and a 15,000 point bonus when you spend $30k. Plus theres a special 25k signup and fee waived promotion going on.

  • Anonymous

    Like TPG said, there are other reasons. Frankly, I have both.

    Sometimes it makes more sense to put a particular piece of airfare on the PRG (if charged in US dollars, directly with an airline is almost always better than via one of the online agencies that just get in the way). Also, PRG gives 3X on all Airline – Travel classed items, which means Delta point transfers get bonuses too :)

    Also, Sapphire Preferred is just 1X on Gas and Groceries. It’s all about putting the right spend on the right card.

    FWIW I just mentioned the 4X via Travelocity as a public service announcement :P

  • Pingback: My 2012 Points Strategy: Future Credit Card Applications | The Points Guy()

  • Pingback: My 2012 Points Strategy: Airline Elite Status | The Points Guy()

Print This Page