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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, Citi Prestige Card, Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard
As I often point out, credit card sign-up bonuses are an easy way to boost your loyalty account balances. Today, TPG Points & Miles Editor Peter Rothbart discusses his most recent card applications, including which cards he selected and why, and how he plans to use those points and miles.
Since I got hooked on award travel in 2011, I haven’t paid for a single flight. I’m not a prolific international traveler like TPG, but I’ve felt really fortunate to be able to visit friends and family back in Michigan regularly, to attend weddings and other events around the country, and to spring for the occasional Hawaiian vacation, entirely thanks to the credit card sign-up bonuses I’ve earned and the travel rewards I’ve garnered from spending strategically in bonus categories.
Like TPG, I don’t have a set schedule for credit card applications. Sometimes I apply speculatively when there’s a good offer even though I don’t have a clear plan to use my rewards. Other times I get cards with a specific award in mind. My most recent set of card applications was a mix of the two, and included these three cards:
- British Airways Visa Signature Card
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard
- US Airways Premier World MasterCard
I had been eyeing all three cards for over a month, and last week decided to pull the trigger. I was approved for all three: the BA Visa immediately, the AAdvantage card the following day after a phone call to confirm some information, and the US Airways card one day later (with no further contact). I’m now set up to earn combined sign-up bonuses of 150,000 points and miles (worth $2,650 according to TPG’s latest monthly valuations) after spending a total of $5,000 in three months, with just one $89 annual fee to pay in the first year.
Here’s why I decided to go for those three cards, and what I plan to do with my rewards once I meet the minimum spending requirements.
British Airways Visa Signature Card
Current Bonus: 50,000 Avios after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Benefits: Spend $30,000 in a calendar year and receive a Travel Together Ticket good for two years. Earn 2.5 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases, and 1.25 Avios for every $1 spent elsewhere. 10% off British Airways ticket purchases with CARDOFFERU cardholder code, now extended through 2015. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year.
Why I got it: This card was the one I wanted most, and since the first year annual fee is being waived for applications through the end of March, I knew now was the time to apply. With the 50,000 Avios from the sign-up bonus, I plan to take advantage of British Airways distance-based awards and redeem for two round-trip economy tickets to Hawaii from my West Coast home in Seattle on Alaska Airlines. British Airways just announced some negative changes to its award chart coming in April, but fortunately those economy redemptions won’t be affected (yet).
I’m also optimistic about keeping this card for the long haul, since it earns 1.25 Avios per dollar spent, and I can reach several of my favorite US destinations (San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Denver) for just 7,500 Avios each way.
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard
Current Bonus: 30,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
Benefits: Receive a $100 American Airlines flight discount every year when you make $30,000 or more in purchases. Free first checked bag and Group 1 priority boarding for you and up to 4 travel companions on American Airlines. For more information on this card, check out TPG’s post on Reduced Price Awards and 10% Mileage Refund for Citi AA Cardholders.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year.
Why I got it: I’m not as devoted to American Airlines as TPG is, but I have no trouble thinking of fun ways to put this sign-up bonus to use. By recommendation of TPG International Correspondent Lori Zaino, I’ll be headed to Andalucía later this year using AAdvantage miles on American and Iberia. I’m also planning a visit to South America, and I may take advantage of off-peak saver fares on LAN to get there.
I missed the boat slightly on this card, since the offer included two complimentary one-day Admirals Club passes and a possible $100 American Airlines discount until about a week before I applied. Still, with no annual fee in the first year and all the other benefits, I’m happy with the outcome.
US Airways Premier World MasterCard
Current Bonus: 50,000 Dividend Miles after first purchase or balance transfer in the first 90 days and payment of annual fee. Note: there have also been reports of targeted bonus offers of 50,000 miles when you spend $1,000 in 90 days.
Benefits: Receive an annual companion certificate good for up to two $99 companion tickets upon approval (though this benefit will disappear this year). 5,000-mile discounts on awards (this also ends in 2015). Free checked bag for you and up to 4 companions. Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on US Airways purchases, receive 1 complimentary US Airways Club day pass, and get first class check-in and Zone 2 boarding.
Annual Fee: $89
Why I got it: My reasons for liking AAdvantage miles apply to US Airways Dividend Miles as well (or they will soon once the two programs merge in the second quarter of this year). This card is on the way out the door, and I knew I wouldn’t have another chance to get it later on. With no minimum spending requirement, getting the card now was an easy decision. This card will eventually transition to one of the AAdvantage Aviator cards (some of which are already being sent to cardholders), so I’ll have most of a year to try that out next to my new Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select before the time comes to renew.
I don’t have a specific plan in mind for the sign-up bonus, though I’m eyeing a first class redemption on an upcoming trip to Philadelphia where the only non-stop service that fits my schedule is a red-eye. It’s not a particularly creative or exciting redemption, but I think I’ll appreciate it when I land at 6 am.
There were a few other cards I thought about applying for, including:
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa, which had a sign-up bonus of 140,000 points (though now it’s down to 70,000 points) when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.
- Citi Prestige, with a current sign-up bonus of 30,000 ThankYou Points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months.
The Ritz-Carlton card offers a great sign-up bonus that I’d put to use at one of the Marriott properties on Kauai, and while Citi Prestige has a less spectacular bonus, it comes with some awesome perks (like an annual $250 air travel credit). However, I decided three cards was enough for the moment, and I’ll save these two for another time.
For more info on planning your credit card applications, as well as the top current offers, check out these posts:
- How Card Applications Affect Your Score
- If I Just Got a New Credit Card, Can I Apply for Another?
- The TPG To Go App, for Help Deciding Which Card to Get and Use
- Top Credit Cards for Travel Rewards in 2015
- 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
- Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you'll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
- In addition to the bonus Avios, you will also get 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.
- Chip Technology allows you to use your card for chip based purchases in Europe & beyond, while still giving you the ability to use your card as you do today at home.