My Latest Card Applications: ThankYou Premier, IHG, Amex BRG

Apr 27, 2015

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A few weeks ago I did a bit of credit card spring cleaning, and closed some accounts that either offered redundant benefits or weren’t providing enough value. That left me with room in my portfolio for a few new additions, so I just put in a round of applications for three cards I’m excited to get my hands on.

I don’t have a set schedule for credit card applications. I tend to wait until there are a few strong offers available, or to apply strategically when I have a specific award or benefit in mind. These most recent card applications were a mix of the two. Here’s what I got:

Citi Premier® Card

I was trying to decide between this card and the Citi Prestige, and ultimately I think I’ll get both. I decided to jump on ThankYou Premier first because it has a limited time offer for 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, whereas Citi has confirmed that the Prestige offer will be around for a bit. I’m also interested in Premier for the bonus spending categories; I already earn 3x Membership Rewards points on airfare with my Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card, and 2x Ultimate Rewards points on dining with Chase Sapphire Preferred, so the bonuses on Citi Prestige don’t help me much. However, ThankYou Premier earns a 3x bonus on gas and certain other travel purchases that aren’t included with those cards.

My larger game plan with Citi is to keep my Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card (the free annual night after $10,000 in spending is a big selling point for me) and probably downgrade my Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. I’m likely going to re-qualify for Executive Platinum status this year on Elite Qualifying Points thanks to the double/triple EQP promo, but the Executive card doesn’t offer any EQP bonus. If I do end up needing Elite Qualifying Miles, I’ll get them from my Aviator Silver Card.

As for earning AAdvantage miles, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express is the most lucrative for general purchases, and Aviator Silver earns 3x miles on American Airlines and US Airways purchases. The perks on Citi Prestige are insanely generous — the annual $250 air travel credit year and 4th night free hotel benefit are huge, and since Prestige gives Admirals Club Lounge access (which I barely use anyway), I’m seeing the AAdvantage Executive card become obsolete before my eyes.

If ThankYou Points can get me back into Singapore Airlines First Class, then sign me up!

Back to Premier: the current sign-up bonus is much better than the previous one, which you couldn’t earn fully until the second year as a cardholder. Citi’s airline transfer partners aren’t on par with the other flexible points programs, but I loved flying in Singapore Airlines First Class, and I plan to use ThankYou Rewards for those redemptions more and more — especially for travel to/from Europe. Basically the sign-up bonus and some spending in bonus categories will be enough for a one-way first class award. Coming home in Suites class? Yes, please!

My application was put into pending review, so I called Citi and was approved in just a few minutes. Per Flyertalk, as a general rule you should avoid having any more than 2 Citi applications of any kind in 60 days (65 days to be safe), so keep that in mind if you’ve recently applied for one of their other cards.

Intercontinental Bora Bora
The Intercontinental Bora Bora looks like a good spot to use my IHG points.

IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card

Despite how strong the annual free night benefit is, I haven’t had this card previously because I’m such a glutton for Hyatt and Starwood. However, this year I’m planning a trip to Bora Bora — one of the destinations on my short list. I’ll get 70,000 points from the sign-up bonus (after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months), which I can use at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa. Award nights in an Overwater Emerald Villa are 50,000 points, or 40,000 + $70 for the Points + Cash rate, so with a little spending on the card (or a transfer from Ultimate Rewards) I can redeem for two nights. For a property where rooms routinely go for over $750 per night, it’s incredible to get $1,500 or more in value from a single sign-up bonus.

The annual free night (after the first year) makes keeping this card an easy win, since it’s good at any IHG property, and I can use it for another $750 room that hugely outweighs the $49 annual fee. You also get automatic Platinum Elite status, which isn’t particularly useful, but I’d rather have it than not. At any rate, this card will stay in my wallet as long as the strong benefits persist.

Once again my application was put in pending, but I called Chase and shifted some credit over from my United MileagePlus Explorer Card to get approved.


Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
I transfer Membership Rewards to Aeroplan in order to book awards on Star Alliance partners like Lufthansa. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

This card normally offers a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months, which isn’t very compelling. However, I got a much more interesting targeted offer for 75,000 points, so I applied.

I used to have this card years ago, and I wanted to get it again because of the 3x bonus spending category that you get to select each year. TPG is starting to do a lot more online advertising, and earning 3x points on those media purchases will net me 150,000 points for $50,000 in spending. I value Membership Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, so between the sign-up bonus and 3x category I should come away with about $4,500 worth of points in the first year. The $175 annual fee being waived for the first year is just that much sweeter.

Yup, that's right - Lufthansa first class comes with caviar service
Yup, that’s right – Lufthansa first class comes with caviar service

One of my favorite Amex transfer partners is Aeroplan, which I use to get access to valuable Star Alliance partners. For example, last year I flew Lufthansa first class from Madrid to Munich to New York, and got about 16 cents per point by redeeming 62,500 Membership Rewards points transferred to Aeroplan (plus $363 in taxes and fees). British Airways is another strong option when you can take advantage of the occasional transfer bonus.

Amex has very stringent rules about earning sign-up bonuses multiple times. The offer I applied for was clear: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product within the last 12 months.” I canceled my old card well over 12 months ago, so I should have no problem earning the bonus, but make sure you read the fine print if you’re thinking of applying, because Amex sometimes won’t allow cardholders to earn a bonus on a card more than once ever.

What’s next?

I want to change The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN to regular The Platinum Card from American Express so I can get 3 additional cardholders for $175 total (that’s roughly $58 each), whereas the Business Platinum charges $175 each. Additional cardholders get the $100 Global Entry/TSA precheck application credit, Delta lounge access, Priority Pass select, and full Centurion Lounge access, making it an absolute no-brainer. (In case anyone was still wondering, I’m very excited about the Miami Centurion Lounge opening up soon!)

As I mentioned above, I do plan to get Citi Prestige, and I may go in for another Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card, since you can earn that bonus repeatedly, and I really value Alaska miles.

Which cards are on your horizon?

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