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Sunday Reader Question: How Does Marriage Change Your Points Strategy?

by on January 15, 2012 · 27 comments

in American Express, Chase, Credit Cards, Starwood, Sunday Reader Questions

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TPG reader Shan writes:

“My wife and I have been amateur points fanatics for over a decade now.  Since finding your blog, I realized how amateur we really were. My question my be helpful for some of your readers:  How does your credit card points strategy change within a marriage (i.e. each applying for the same/different cards)?  With two people applying, can you theoretically collect points twice as fast in one household?  Do any of your readers have experience with this?”

How does that Wrigley’s slogan go – Double your pleasure, double your fun? That’s how I feel about couples who are in pursuit of the mileage game! Don’t make one person wear the “points” in the relationship – you should both be participating to fuel your joint account.

So to answer your questions:

1) Should you be applying for the same cards? Maybe. As I always say, you should diversify your point strategy so that when it comes time to redeem you have lots of options. However, you don’t want your points to be too scattered where you don’t have enough in any combination of accounts to book the same awards. The best tip I have is to focus on building up points in transferable programs, like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. They allow you to jointly build up points that can be transferred to a number of different airline and hotel programs, giving you maximum flexibility. (See below for a quick rundown).

2) Can you collect points twice as fast? Yes, in some instances. Most credit card bonuses are eligible once per person, not household. So for example, if you and your spouse both apply for the Sapphire Preferred card (the best deal on the market right now), you would each get the 50,000-point sign-up bonus (Update: sign-up bonus has been reduced to 40,000 points) and could then combine your total of 100,000 points into one central Ultimate Rewards account.

As for household income, many credit card applications will let you combine household income. If not, you can still get approved for cards if your income isn’t substantial just by having a good credit score. Income is just one piece of the pie that credit card companies use to evaluate your credit worthiness.

As for the programs you should focus on, there are three main points programs that will let you share and combine points free of charge.

1) Chase Ultimate Rewards will let you combine points with anyone else. Those Chase points can then be transferred to airlines (United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean) and hotels (Hyatt, Marriott and Priority Club) – as well as Amtrak. Tack on some lucrative online shopping bonuses and maximizing the category bonuses (for Sapphire Preferred you get 2 points per dollar on travel and dining and for Ink Bold the bonuses are 5 points per dollar on office supply stores, cable and wireless service and land-line communications, and 2 points on gas and hotels.

Key cards: There are currently 50,000-point sign-up bonuses for the Sapphire Preferred (expired) and Ink Bold cards both have the $95 annual fee waived for the first year.

2) American Express Membership Rewards allows you to pool points if you are an additional cardholder, but if you have separate Amex accounts you can’t combine. However you can both transfer to one person’s frequent flyer account so you can book awards from one centralized account. Amex airline transfer partners are: Air Canada Aeroplan, Singapore, All Nippon Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Delta, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Alitalia, Aeromexico, Airtran, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, El Al, Frontier, JetBlue, Hawaiian.

Key cards: 50,000-point bonus for the Mercedes-Benz Platinum card ($475 annual fee), 25,000 points for Platinum ($450 annual fee) and 15,000 points for Premier Rewards Gold ($175 annual fee waived the first year).

3) Starwood Preferred Guest will allow people who live in the same household (who have the same address on file for over a month) to transfer points in between accounts free of charge. Starwood points transfer to numerous partners like American Airlines, Delta and British Airways (full list with transfer ratios here).

Key cards: 25,000 bonus points for both the Personal and Business SPG Amex.

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.

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  • Gavinmac
  • Anonymous

    That’s not a general offer.. Several TPG readers have applied and only gotten 25k. If you go to Amex.com the public offer for platinum is only 25k. YMMV

  • xp0

    I typically apply for the same card twice (once for me, once for my wife) so that way when we travel we both can afford the award redemption. We both have great credit and to date we have never been denied. For any cards dealing with Airline Miles, or “points” (UR, MR, SPG) we both sign up — Both personal and business. Only in a few instances have only I signed up for a card – Hilton Cards, and the Chase Hyatt card.

  • Joe

    I too am a rookie at this but don’t forget to pool your statuses to your advantage. My wife is HH diamond so we signed up for the two Hawaiian airline cc each. Then I transferred my 70k miles into her HA account. She transferred the 140k miles into her HH account for 280k points. Next we used her diamond status to book a 6 night discounted stay at the Conrad Maldives for I think it was 225k points along with diamond benefits.

  • Gpks00

    Don’t forget you would have to spend the minimum Twice as well.

  • Mark

    I received a refer a friend offer for the regular Amex Platinum card… 50K after $3k spent in 3 months. I get 5K for the referral. If TPG allows it I’ll give my email address to send in your name and email for the offer.

  • Anonymous

    Feel free.. Spread the love!

  • Gpapadop

    Whatever I do my wife does too. Oh, let me rephrase, whatever I do I also do for her:-) I can’t wait for my kids to turn adult so I can do it for them too, lol. What makes it much easier is that my wife has a very rare (Asian) first name that csrs can not tell if it is male or female….therefore it is me calling reconsideration lines, bumpupbonuses calls, etc etc.

  • PJ

    a family of 4 , if kids are all working, get 4 for the same good card such as Sapphire Preferred.. i talked into a family get 2 Sapphire Preferred and 2 sapphire Freedoms plus checking account $100 plus $150 direct deposit to finish the awesome chase combination. once you get the Ultimate rewards points. NO RUSH to transfer to different accounts except to rescue some orphan points ( say give 10K to an existing account with 2.6K blance).. hmmm do I regret I have only 2 kids … +1 son in law :)

    Best is if you have a trusted person with Platinum elite status..get that person to book for you ( in my case i call in United or Continental or login into my daughter’s account to book trips for all family members.. no quick ticket fees no change fees. When a trusted friend books a flight for you you can simply transfer UR to his United account or his Sapphire preferred account . and when you go out to dine together dinners are always on you.

    Kudos to CHase Sapphire Preferred to make this excercise workable.. you can work out with AMEX MR, but it gets a bit messy when you need to be add your trusted friend as an AU into your amex account.

  • PJ

    still on Hawaii airlines for 70K ?

    HH is not worth 280K to 140 K miles unless you HH diamond can pull a rabbit out of your sleeves..

  • PJ

    there is a referal bonus for existing SPG card holder i hopped on the referal link to apply in my daughter’s name ( of course with her permision) she is scheduled to get all 25K

    did call in to register to get 30K all together after the public offer went to 30K as we saw here on will let you know if WE do get the 30 plus 5 k referral

  • PJ

    yes i do see HH Diamond Magic.. any bid with my 50K points against your Sapphire Preferred UR?

  • Mark
  • http://IndulgeTheWanderlust.com/ The Wanderer

    I usually get the same cards for myself and my wife as long as it is a publicly available offer. We do end up with a few different cards when we get targeted offers though. By doubling up on the bonus points, we are able to take our kids along with us on the reward trips. This year we have trips to Paris and Santiago/Rio planned thanks to each of us getting a Citi AA Visa card (75k each) and a Chase BA card (100k each). Rather than having combined accounts, when it comes time to book, I just use my miles for mine and one child’s tickets and my wife’s miles for hers and the other child’s tickets. Meeting the spend can be tough with the higher requirements, but we use some tricks and put absolutely everything we can on cards. I also make sure not to apply for too many cards at the same time unless I know we will be able to meet the sign-up spend requirements. If I think the spend requirements are too high, that card might just have to wait for the next churn.

  • http://www.kidsmeetworld.com/ Jeff

    My wife is concerned about the impact of all this stuff on her credit (I know, I know…), but I was able to get the Saphire Preferred for both of us. Everything else is just me. We’ve used points casually for the past 7 years or so, but are really focused on our RTW trip with the kids next year. All of our points gathering is going to this goal.

  • Lark

    TPG: I can’t wait for your follow up blog post: “How does divorce change your points strategy?” And how do you value and divide the points you accumulated during marriage?

  • Heather

    Does anyone have the reconsideration number for chase sapphire preferred? Thanks

  • Anonymous

    1-888-245-0625. Good luck!!

  • Anonymous

    Great post! My Amex home page gives me the ability to make referrals for the 50K MR bonus for the Platinum ($450 fee, $3K spend). I would be happy to refer anyone for this offer, just send an email to [email protected] with your first and last names and email address. Thanks!

  • dguy80

    Hi,
    I received a referral offer for the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. 25000 MR points after $2k spend in 3 months. I get 5k points if someone uses that link. Send me an email at [email protected] for the referral link.
    TPG – i hope it is fine with you,that i left this message in your comments section, i think this is better than the other standard offers out there.

  • Mark

    Hey hoglard1 – that was a very rude thing to do. I explicitly asked for TPG’s permission to offer referrals to his readers…as it is beneficial to me as well (I get 5K MR for the referral – which I stated)… And then you come along and try to do the same thing and steal referrals from me. For shame!

  • Anonymous

    I sincerely apologize. I may have misunderstood TPG’s comment to spread the love, and I didn’t mean to hijack you.

  • Matt Steele

    I have a screen shot showing 50k signup bonus for regular Platinum, but my Amex account shows only 25k pending. Will they honor what I signed up for?

  • Erica

    Wow reading the comments section can be like reading another language! I definitely love the general idea of marriage getting double the points but… @TPG, if you were just starting (think way back!) what would be the first thing you would sign up for today to get going in airline point endeavors?

  • Bryan1884

    Question: If my wife is already an additional card member on my chase/amex cards, can she still apply and receive her won card as well?

  • Anonymous

    Yes

  • Ilimas

    Hey there TPG! If you get a referral the AMEX Platinum bonus is 50,000 MR points after $3000 in 3 months. And the referrer gets 10,000 MR points. I’d be happy to email this to anyone.

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