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TPG reader Joe emailed me to ask:
“My new husband and I have both the Platinum Delta Amex and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (both in my name with him as an authorized user). We currently don’t have status with any airline, but primarily fly Delta from Kansas City, and have been working towards our $50,000 spend for Delta Silver Medallion. We’re also trying to load up on miles for a business class trip to Spain and Israel in 2015. Does it make sense to spend as much as possible on the Amex to aim for Silver Medallion, or should we just use the Sapphire? We also have a Chase Freedom in my name and a US Airways MasterCard in his name.”
The airlines are master marketers, and they have us caught on what I call the “Elite Status Hamster Wheel.” We’re caught up in a vicious circle: keep spending, keep paying, keep earning that Elite status, keep working to retain it. Elite status is kind of like a drug; once you have a taste, you never want to be without it!
Joe and his husband have the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Delta Platinum Amex card (among others). They’re working to spend $50,000 on the Delta card to get the MQM boost and Silver Elite status, but there’s an opportunity cost to that spend. You’re forgoing spend on a more lucrative card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which gives double points on anything related to travel and dining, plus a 7% Dividend on all points earned. Even at the base level you’ll earn 1.07 valuable Ultimate Reward points versus one Delta Skymile.
I value Ultimate Rewards points much more highly than Delta miles, as they can be use on the 11 Chase transfer partners. With Skymiles, you’re really pegged into Delta and SkyTeam, and you may be looking at at using up to 325,000 SkyMiles to fly to Europe in Business Class if your dates aren’t flexible. So, by putting all your charges on the Delta Card, you risk not being able to redeem for the rewards you want.
My suggestion is that since you’re already getting a lot of the Silver Medallion perks from the Delta Platinum Amex card, you should evaluate your other options. Are you getting upgraded? Are you getting better customer service? Try to put a value on your silver status, and if you don’t think it’s worthwhile, you should put your spend on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card instead. You might also consider getting a few other credit cards to boost your other points balances, and hopefully soon your trip to the Mediterranean will be in reach.