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I often discuss how helpful credit card sign-up bonuses and spending can be for earning award travel, but some readers are intimidated by the idea of opening many new accounts. So today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen demonstrates how much even a single card can offer you in travel rewards.
Award travel can be a daunting hobby to take up, especially when it comes to credit cards. If you don’t travel regularly for work, your everyday spending habits play a huge role in earning (and then redeeming) points and miles. However, with so many options, you may not know where to start. In this post, I’ll continue my series looking at how easy it is to earn rewards by opening and using even a single card for a year. In previous posts, I’ve looked at the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, the Chase Ink Plus Business Card and the Citi Premier Card. Today, I’ll focus on a card that has become much more attractive lately: the Wyndham Rewards Visa Card.
Let’s start with a quick overview of the card and why it has recently become such a high-value option. Back in March, Wyndham announced a “revaluation” of its loyalty program, which made all award stays 15,000 points per night as of May 11. This ramped up interest in the Wyndham Visa, which comes in two different flavors: one with an annual fee and one without. Both versions currently have increased sign-up bonuses, as follows:
- Fee version: Earn up to 30,000 points; 15,000 points after first purchase and an additional 15,000 when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening.
- No-fee version: 15,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening.
In this post, I’ll focus on the more lucrative fee version of the card. Though it will cost you $75 each year (which isn’t waived for the first year), it comes with an annual bonus of 6,000 points on your account anniversary. Under the new program, that equates to a free night every year for just $69! The card would clearly make the list of best hotel credit cards for free nights if it were written today.
Unfortunately, the only bonus you get on purchases is for using the card at one of Wyndham’s 7,500+ properties worldwide, where you’ll earn 5 points per dollar spent (3 points per dollar on the no-fee version). However, all other purchases still earn 2 points per dollar spent. Based on TPG’s valuation of 1.2 cents apiece, this actually equates to a return of 2.4% on everyday spending. In the past I touted the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card as being ideal for everyday spending, but after two major devaluations to the Club Carlson program, the Wyndham card may be a much better option.
So if you open the Wyndham Rewards Visa, earn the sign-up bonus and use the card exclusively for the first year, where does that leave you? Obviously, the answer depends on your spending patterns, so for this analysis I used consumer-expenditure data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2013 and 2014 to estimate what an “average” household would spend (and thus earn) on the Wyndham Rewards Visa in one year.
In doing so, I made the following assumptions:
- 60% of “Housing” expenditures cover mortgages or rent, and thus can’t be paid with a credit card (unless you’re willing to pay high fees by using a service like Venmo or ChargeSmart).
- “Transportation” expenditures are split evenly between car payments (which typically can’t be paid with a credit card), gasoline and other transportation costs (parking, tolls, train/subway/bus tickets, etc.).
- All “Healthcare” and “Other” expenditures can be paid with a credit card.
- All “Personal insurance and pensions” expenditures can’t be paid with a credit card.
- $500 of the “All other expenditures” category is spent on Wyndham stays.
Again, your situation may differ substantially, so feel free to adjust these assumptions in order to calculate your own earning potential.
Here’s a quick table that shows how these spending patterns in the first year of card membership translate to Wyndham Rewards points:
|Food – At home||$3,977||2 points/$||7,954|
|Food – Away from home||$2,625||2 points/$||5,250|
|Apparel and services||$1,604||2 points/$||3,208|
|Transportation (gasoline)||$3,001||2 points/$||6,002|
|Transportation (other)||$3,001||2 points/$||6,002|
|Wyndham purchases||$500||5 points/$||2,500|
|All other expenditures||$2,767||2 points/$||5,534|
As you can see, the “average” American consumer would earn 107,394 Wyndham Rewards points in the first year. Not too shabby!
What Does This Get You?
Earning points is one thing; knowing the different ways to use them for maximum value is a completely different story. Here’s a sampling of what you can do with the first year’s haul of points from the Wyndham Visa:
1. Seven nights in any Wyndham hotel worldwide. One of the best changes to the Wyndham Rewards program (at least for aspirational stays) is the new standard rate of 15,000 points per night for award stays. In my earlier analysis of the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, the points and certificates you earn during the first year are barely enough for three free nights in the program’s top-tier Category 10 properties. In that sense, this card offers more than double the return on your spending.
The Wyndham portfolio includes a lot of low-end properties like Days Inn and Super 8 locations, but there are still some terrific redemption opportunities in the program. These are some of my favorites:
- Shelbourne Wyndham Grand South Beach — A contemporary Art Deco property situated in the heart of South Beach
- Ramada Couran Cove Island Resort — A secluded resort off Australia’s Gold Coast
- Wyndham Koloa Landing at Poipu Beach — A luxurious resort on the island of Kauai (though it will be leaving the Wyndham portfolio in December, so book now!)
2. Thirty-five GO FAST points + cash nights. One of the other recent updates to the Wyndham Rewards program is the addition of a points + cash option. Called “GO FAST,” these awards allow you to book an award night for just 3,000 points plus a cash copay of between $35 and $75. With this first year’s haul of points, you could book a solid five weeks of these awards! As Richard Kerr discovered, these GO FAST points + cash rates can be quite valuable under the right circumstances; just be sure to crunch the numbers to make sure you aren’t better off redeeming 15,000 points for the award (or simply paying for the room outright).
The Wyndham Rewards program was an afterthought in the points and miles game for a long time, but with this year’s revaluation and new sign-up bonuses on its co-branded credit cards, the program is clearly trying to establish itself as a key player in the hotel loyalty world. Getting and keeping this card may now be worth it, and keep in mind that the above calculations may be too conservative:
- The calculation assumes that you’re the average consumer. If you typically spend more in some of the bonus categories each year (I definitely do at restaurants), then your earnings will be even higher.
- The calculation assumes that you only open one card. Other travel rewards credit cards with terrific sign-up bonuses (like the Citi Premier Card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card) can be opened and used alongside the Wyndham Rewards Visa for even more earning potential.
These items notwithstanding, I hope I’ve illustrated that one card (especially in the first year) can open up a wealth of redemption possibilities.
How would you redeem one year of points from the Wyndham Rewards Visa?
Know before you go.
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