Sunday Reader Question: Advantage to Additional Cardholders Vs. Two Accounts
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
TPG reader Sue asks:
"We saw you at the New York Times Travel Show and have been following your blog. My question: Is there an advantage to opening a credit card account with a subcard vs. opening two accounts? We are looking at the British Airways card that you recommended. We are domestic partners and not married. "
Simply put, the advantage to opening two cards would be that you could potentially score two sign-up bonuses, which with the British Airways Visa Signature Card is 50,000 Avios after $3,000 spent within the first 3 months and then an additional 25,000 Avios after $10,000 total spent within a year and another 25,000 Avios after $20,000 total spent. If you hit all $20,000 in spend within the year, you'd end up with at least 100,000 Avios.
While some Avios awards have high fees, there are a bunch of super valuable ways to maximize their value, which I highlighted in this post. Depending on how much money you can spend in a year, you might want to each get the card and then you can combine all of your Avios into a Household Account. Even if only one of you can reach the full $20,000 in spend, I still think getting 50,000 Avios after $1,000 in spend is a great deal. If you value short-haul flights, British Airways only charges 9,000 Avios roundtrip for flights under 600 miles. So with, say, 175,000 Avios collectively, you could get almost 20 roundtrip flights on American!
Flights from NYC to Miami non-stop are only 15,000 Avios in economy and the fees are low and you can even get to Europe on Air Berlin or Aer Lingus and avoid huge fees- only 50,000 miles roundtrip in economy and if you can leave from Boston, that price drops to only 25,000 Avios roundtrip per ticket to Dublin!
Getting an additional cardholder is free and there is no credit hit. Even if your partner wants to get the bonus in the future, they'd be eligible - being an additional cardholder does not preclude you from getting the bonus if you ever get your own card/ primary account. However, if they decide to get their own card, you're looking at a had inquiry, which is a 2-5 point temporary reduction in credit score and a $95 annual fee. I still think the 50,000-100,000 Avios payday is worth it, but it is something to consider.
By doubling down on the British Airways offer, you're also putting a lot of "miles" in one basket. I always recommend diversifying your miles/points, just like assets. Instead of getting an additional British Airways card, you may want to consider another card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. While the sign-up bonus is 50,000 points after $4,000 spent within 3 months, the points are much more flexible - you can still transfer them to British Airways, but you also have the option of transferring to United (the most valuable partner in my opinion), Southwest, Korean, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club and Amtrak. The Sapphire Preferred also has better earning opportunities- 2x on travel (which includes airfare, hotel, taxis, parking, mass transit and more) and dining and the $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
However, you also need to take into account that the current British Airways Avios offer is a limited time offer, which may be expiring soon and may or may not come back (they usually run it every year, but that doesn't mean it will come back in the same or more lucrative format). You can also get a British Airways card and another Chase card. I actually have seven active Chase cards and am going for a couple more in my next round of applications, which is coming up soon. If you have good credit and pay your bills off on time (or early), you should have no issue getting in on the best deals - whether from Chase or other issuers.