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TPG contributor Jason Steele comes back this week to analyze minimum spend.

Perhaps we are living in the golden age of credit card rewards, where banks are eager to offer us so many valuable points and miles just for giving them a chance to earn our business. Nevertheless, most of these offers require a significant amount of spending (often referred to as the “minimum spend”) in order to qualify for bonus offers.

Unless you normally spend a large amount for your household or business, you’ll need to weigh the rewards offered by each card against its spending requirement. If manufactured spending isn’t your thing, we thought it would be helpful to examine current credit card offers and analyze the rewards you’ll receive compared to how much you’d need to spend to earn them.

The chart below examines the value offered by various credit card signup bonuses. To calculate the total value, we considered the value of each type of point as rated by TPG in his monthly valuation series, and we factored in the cost of any annual fee charged in the first year of card membership. Finally, we divided the total value by the amount of required spend as a measure of which cards provide the most value for the least spending effort. Check the chart to see what we found.

Personal Cards Bonus Min. Spend Total Pts Point Value Total Value 1st Year Annual Fee Value After 1st Year Fee Value per $ /Spend
Chase
Freedom* 20,000 $500 20,500 2.1 $431 $0 $431 $0.86
Sapphire* 10,000 $500 10,500 2.1 $221 $0 $221 $0.44
Sapphire Preferred 40,000 $3,000 43,000 2.1 $903 $0 $903 $0.30
United Explorer 30,000 $1,000 31,000 1.4 $434 $0 $434 $0.43
British Airways 50,000 $2,000 52,500 1.7 $892.5 $95 $797.5 $0.40
Marriott Rewards 30,000 $1,000 31,000 0.5 $155 $0 $155 $0.16
Marriott Premier Rewards 50,000 $1,000 51,000 0.5 $255 $0 $255 $0.26
Southwest Premier Visa 50,000 $2,000 52,000 1.4 $728 $99 $629 $0.31
Southwest Plus Visa 50,000 $2,000 52,000 1.4 $728 $69 $659 $0.33
Ink Bold / Ink Plus 50,000 $5,000 55,000 2.1 $1,155 $0 $1,155 $0.23
Ink Cash* 20,000 $3,000 23,000 2.1 $483 $0 $483 $0.16
American Express
Amex Platinum 40,000 $3,000 43,000 1.7 $731 $450 $281 $0.09
Premier Rewards Gold 25,000 $2,000 27,000 1.7 $459 $0 $459 $0.23
Amex Gold 25,000 $2,000 27,000 1.7 $459 $0 $459 $0.23
Gold Delta SkyMiles 30,000 $1,000 31,000 1.2 $372 $0 $372 $0.37
Platinum Delta SkyMiles 35,000 $1,000 36,000 1.2 $432 $95*** $337 $0.34
Delta Reserve 10,000 $0 10,000 1.2 $120 $450 ($330) NA
Starwood Amex 30,000 $5,000 35,000 2.1 $735 $0 $735 $0.15
Amex EveryDay 10,000 $1,000 11,000 1.7 $187 $0 $187 $0.19
Amex EveryDay Preferred 15,000 $1,000 16,000 1.7 $272 $95 $177 $01.8
Hilton HHonors 40,000 $750 40,750 0.5 $204 $0 $204 $0.27
Hilton HHonors Surpass 60,000 $3,000 63,000 0.5 $315 $75 $240 $0.08
Capital One
Venture Rewards 20,000 $2,000 22,000 1.0 $220 $0 $220 $0.11
VentureOne 20,000 $2,000 22,000 1.0 $220 $0 $220 $0.11
Citi
Hilton HHonors 40,000 $1,000 41,000 0.5 $205 $0 $205 $0.21
Platinum Select/AAdvantage 30,000 $1,000 31,000 1.7 $527 $0 $527 $0.53
Executive AAdvantage** 100,000 $10,000 110,000 1.7 $1,870 $250** $1,620 $0.16
BarclayCard
Arrival Plus 40,000 $3,000 43,000 1.1 $473 $0 $473 $0.16
Arrival 20,000 $1,000 21,000 1.1 $231 $0 $231 $0.23
Frontier 40,000 $500 40,500 1.2 $486 $69 $417 $0.83
US Airways 40,000 $0 40,000 1.9 $760 $89 $671 NA

 * Assumes you can transfer to Ultimate Rewards account that allows point transfers.
**Net after $200 statement credit.
***Net after $100 statement credit.

Conclusions

If you look at the value of the points and miles earned, per dollar spent meeting the minimum spending requirement, the cards with the smallest bonuses are actually favored. For example, the Frontier Airlines Mastercard from Barclaycard offers 40,500 total points after spending just $500, which we value at $417 after factoring in the annual fee (which isn’t waived the first year). Likewise, the Chase Freedom offers 20,500 total points worth $431 (assuming you can transfer to an Ultimate Rewards account) after spending just $500.

Other standouts include the Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage (American Airlines) card which offers 30,000 miles for just $1,000 minimum spending. Essentially, cardholders receive 31x miles per dollar for the first $1,000, which compares quite favorably to the 11x earned by the Citi Executive cards with the 100k offer for spending $10,000.

Of course, there is also the US Airways card and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, both of which offer their sign up bonuses after cardholders make their first purchase.

On the other end of the spectrum are cards like the Amex Premier Rewards Gold which offers 25,000 Membership Rewards points after $2,000 spent within 3 months and the Business Gold Rewards Card  which also offers 25,000 points but cardholders must spend a considerable $5,000 on their card within the first 3 months. Even the current Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express that offers 30,000 bonus points (10,000 after first purchase and 20,000 after $5,000 spent within 6 months) only comes out to 7 points per dollar spent by the time the complete sign-up bonus is earned.

To be sure, there are many other criteria that you should consider before choosing your next card, for example, we didn’t take into account the cost of the annual fee. But if you have a limited capacity to meet minimum spending requirements, this is an important perspective to keep in mind.

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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  • Danny

    It looks like you have a large number of errors in this chart.

    Platinum Delta gives you more points than the Gold Delta, but is listed as having lower value. You’ve made a mistake, most likely.

    Hilton HHonors Surpass is listed as 63K DOLLARS of total points.

    Delta reserve is listed as negative 330 dollars of value, lol.

    Amex Platinum is listed as 43,000 points, worth 1.7 cents each. Then the value is listed as only 281$. That clearly doesn’t make sense.

    This is a really poor post, Jason. There was a lack of basic proofreading and fact checking before you hit publish, clearly.

  • Danny

    More errors:

    Citi Hilton HHonors is listed as 41,000 points worth 0.5 points each. Then you say the total value is “025″ dollars. ?????????

    Barclaycard Frontier is listed as 40500 points worth 1.2 cents each, that should mean 486 dollars of value. You have 417 dollars of value.

    I would advise everyone to do the math for yourself.

  • http://www.jasonsteele.com/ Jason Steele

    Thank you for catching those. I have updated the post to fix it, and noted that we did not take into account the annual fees.

  • http://www.tylerbrownvisuals.com/ Tyler Brown

    Arrival/Arrival Plus is wrong as well. The card earns 2.2 points/$ but the points are worth $.01 each. Therefore, you’d end up with 46,000 points + 10% = 50,400 = $504 value

  • http://www.jasonsteele.com/ Jason Steele

    This has been corrected, thank you.

  • Bismay Mishra

    I think you should highlight the annual fees in a separate column, calculate the bonus points value, and then show the points value after subtracting the annual fees. Eg, the case of Amex Platinum.

  • el36

    Starwood Amex30,000$5,00045,0002.1$945$0.19

    How do you come with 45 000 points for the Starwood Amex? I think it should be 35 000 (1 point per $1). Value then is only $735 and Value per $/Spend is $0.147…

  • iamright

    The two Southwest cards have the same bonus, same spend but different ‘total value’. TPG knows cards but appears to be Excel-challenged.

  • thepointsguy

    The ‘total values’ were different because the Southwest cards have different annual fees – one $69 and one $99. The chart has been updated to include all numbers so it is more clear.

  • http://www.jasonsteele.com/ Jason Steele

    fixed

  • Hotcrab

    The chase freedom card’s points are worth 2.1 cents only of you also have the csp, right? What are the points worth on its own?

  • Nick

    Serious question… I don’t understand why so many of these points are valued at such low levels. If you really estimate them to be worth less than 2 cents, why wouldn’t you just using something like the Arrival Plus that has a fixed value of 2.2 cents?

  • http://www.jasonsteele.com/ Jason Steele

    Just one cent

  • http://www.jasonsteele.com/ Jason Steele

    Point/mile valuations are inherently subjective. Some might receive more or less value per point, and there would be good arguments in both cases. I would just refer you to the linked article to see TPG’s rationale.

  • Vik

    British airways gives 1.25 avios/dollar, so $2000 in initial spend plus the bonus would net you 52,500 miles.

  • http://www.jasonsteele.com/ Jason Steele

    Fixed

  • Bismay Mishra

    Could you fix the Amex Platinum record to account for the $200 statement credit (akin to AAdvantage card)?

  • http://www.jasonsteele.com/ Jason Steele

    Are you referring to the airline fee credit? If so, that is more of a benefit, and I wouldn’t say that it directly offsets the annual fee in the same way as the AAdvantage Exec card.

  • Bismay Mishra

    Got it, although then you should consider it under the “value” while calculating value per spend :)

  • http://www.jasonsteele.com/ Jason Steele

    I hear what you are saying, and you make a good point. At the same time, every card has benefits that offer value, and I was only trying to include the value of the points/miles, not other benefits.

  • Bismay Mishra

    Got it, it’s a tricky thing indeed to compare with or without including everything as at the end of the day, it’ll be to each his own. However, as it hasn’t been said enough, thanks for sharing a comprehensive summary. At least it gets people thinking and asking questions :)

  • Matt

    This was a fantastic post to get people to click on referral links :)

  • Tom

    Do Chase UR points post right after hitting the min spend or after the statement closes?

  • shay peleg

    Statement

  • Ed

    How come there is no mention about the Bank of America

    BankAmericard Platinum Privileges credit card? With the reward percentages and the 50% bonus for BofA account holders, isn’t this a decent card?

  • Tek Traveller

    Just got an offer for Amex Prem Gold for 50k sign up bonus after first $1k purchase.. just not sure if this will be good for me for travel.. as I usually travel once a year to Dubai .. should I sign up for this or choose another card?
    Thanks in advance – Credit card noob -

  • Tek Traveller

    Sorry to jump in on the thread… but really hoping I can get your input on this post:

    Just got an offer for Amex Prem Gold for 50k sign up bonus after first $1k purchase.. just not sure if this will be good for me for travel.. as I usually travel once a year to Dubai .. should I sign up for this or choose another card?

    Thanks in advance – Credit card noob -

  • taryn

    It was a fantastic post to help me determine if I should apply for any other cards right now or wait til later. I didn’t click on any of the links.

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