The First Annual TPG Staff Credit Card Draft
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The following conversation took place on TPG’s electronic interoffice Slack Chat system and has been lightly edited for clarity, length and formatting.
Julian: Hello everyone! The NFL Draft just wrapped up this past weekend, so we’ve decided to hold a draft of sorts of our own. We’re calling it “The First Annual TPG Staff Credit Card Draft.” Yes, “First Annual” might be a bit presumptuous, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel and joining me here are three other members of The Points Guy staff — Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig, Points and Miles Editor Sarah Silbert, and Assistant Editor Nick Ellis.
Zach: Hey Julian, excited for the weekend? [Mondays are Julian’s “Thursdays” since he works on the weekends.]
Julian: I’m pleased to report it’s not too bad having a mid-week weekend. You can actually get stuff done.
Zach: No Platinum Concierge needed for that super-in-demand Wednesday brunch reservation!
Julian: Exactly. By the way, note that since it’s 3 editors and myself here, I purposely added an Oxford comma to the end of my intro to see who would catch it first. So far I’m batting .000.
Sarah: Oh Julian, I was gonna call that out in a private message.
Zach: I sent you a cookie cake that said “Sorry you’re bad at English”… guess it didn’t arrive yet.
Julian: If you sent it via American Airlines, it’s probably still waiting for a gate.
Nick: Hope you earned 3x UR [Ultimate Rewards points] for that purchase, Zach.
Zach: I’m not sure… my wallet is currently empty! So let’s get this party started?
Julian: Yep! So here’s our premise today — if you could only have 4 credit cards, which 4 would they be? Our “draft” will be 4 rounds long with each person picking one card per round, so everyone will have 4 credit cards at the end and then we’ll judge who has the best lineup and who blew it.
Sarah: Yes, let’s!
Julian: Now, unlike the real world where millions of people can all have the same credit card, in our draft only one person can have a particular card. So once a card is picked, it’s off the table — no one else can pick it. Hopefully our players have done their homework and are ready to make decisions on the fly.
Also, we’re including a “salary cap” of sorts — each person has a total of $650 in annual fees to spend across their entire 4 cards. So if you pick a premium card with a high annual fee, you’d better be ready to take a few no annual fee cards as well.
Julian: By the way, our Editor-in-Chief is a sushi fiend, so he simply types the word “sushi” or adds a sushi emoticon when he’s happy about something.
Julian: And someone programmed the automated Slackbot to respond in kind.
Zach: Yeah, that was Mr. [Scott] Kidder, [COO of The Points Guy]… such a kidder.
Sarah: No one likes sushi as much as Zach does.
Julian: For those of you familiar with fantasy football drafts, we’re using a “snake” format so the last person to pick in each round will be first in the next round and the order will reverse each time. We had random.org generate draft positions before we started, and the order in round #1 is Sarah, myself, Nick and then Zach.
Zach: As long as nobody picks the Mastercard Black Card before me…
Sarah: So should I just jump right in?
Julian: One last note — since this is a draft, snark is both welcome and encouraged. As if you couldn’t tell that already. Here we go. Sarah, you’re first.
Zach: (Don’t pick the Black Card. Don’t pick the Black Card. Don’t pick the Black Card.)
Sarah: Alrighty, saving the Black Card for Zach to be nice and going with the Platinum Card® from American Express as my first pick.
Julian: Personal or business?
Sarah: Personal, so that’s only $100 in annual fees left.
Julian: Expensive choice.
Sarah: Yup, but I feel good about it (so far).
Nick: Ugh… no Centurion lounges for me.
Julian: Just to clarify, the personal Platinum is now taken, but the Business is still available, Nick.
Nick: Now that Amex ripped the 50% points rebate from Business Platinum it’s looking a lot less appealing.
Julian: This is true. I’m up next and I’m torn between the Business Platinum® Card from American Express and another card, but I think I’m going to take the Biz Platinum.
Zach: But you’re going to have to wait MONTHS for a metal card. You’re cool with that?
Julian: My wallet is heavy enough as it is.
Julian: Yeah, at $2,500 Nick is going to have to borrow from the salary cap for the next 5 years to cover that one.
Zach: Or Nick can get the Business Green Rewards Card from American Express and visit 11 times for the cost of the Plat’s annual fee??
Julian: Excellent point. Nick, you’re on the clock.
Zach: (Don’t pick the Green Card. Don’t pick the Green Card. Don’t pick the Green Card.)
Nick: Ok I eat out… a lot… Even though the sign up bonus is the same as the CSP [Chase Sapphire Preferred], I’m going to pick the Chase Sapphire Reserve… those UR points will add up fast from the dining alone.
Julian: Interesting. Premium cards going 1-2-3 in this draft.
Nick: Plus, IRL, I’m way over 5/24 so CSR has been on my wish list for a long time.
Zach: Okay fine… since you guys got all the GOOD cards, I’ll just have to pick Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Now I have to figure out how to spend all of that leftover $$$$.
Sarah: But Zach, that card doesn’t have a color in its name. Are you sure?
Zach: I mean isn’t Sapphire a color? Or a shade?
Nick: Precious stone?
Julian: It’s a less valuable metal, Zach. Platinum… Gold… Sapphire?
Zach: I can live with that… my pick again?
Julian: Yep, that was the end of round #1, so you’re up first in round #2
Zach: I was going to pick a premium card next, but none of you can afford another, so…
Julian: Ahhh, good strategy.
Zach: I’ll go with the Hyatt Credit Card. Or is that the World of Hyatt card now?
Nick: I agree with Zach… I really wanted that one. Park Hyatt Maldives anyone?
Julian: Hmmmm. I was going to say that I felt like that card would still be on the board for a while, but then Nick proved me wrong.
Sarah: Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme sounds pretty good right now.
Zach: Yeah that’s my #1… or maybe Sydney.
Julian: Paris-Vendôme is overrated. Sydney is cool, but I think the best use is all-inclusives.
Zach: So many options… that you guys don’t have anymore. Sorry. You can follow my Instagram.
Julian: I unfollowed it — got tired of all the sushi photos.
Julian: Nick, you’re up.
Nick: Ok cool — this round I’m going to save a little money and pick the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Now that the Hyatt card is off the table I’m going to have to earn a lot more UR points to transfer to Hyatt.
Julian: I think that’s a great pick — pair it with the CSR and get 1.5 cents on all your UR points.
Julian: I’m going to follow the same logic and take the Amex Everyday Preferred with my pick. That way I’ll pick up extra points with the bonus categories and use them with the 50% points rebate. For a year, at least.
Zach: I was eyeing that one… but I figured Nick would be all over Hyatt.
Sarah: Cool. And I’ve got to grab the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card so I can have one UR-earning card.
Julian: Sarah going the opposite direction — diversifying instead of buying all-in on one program. Probably the smarter move, but I’m a risk taker.
Zach: I do get more use out of my UR points than any other currency…
Sarah: Sad I couldn’t nab the CSP to get the dining category but I can still rack up some bonus points for internet/cable/phone.
Julian: But how much internet/cable/phone do you use in a month?
Sarah: That’s personal, Julian. Plus I’m trying to cook more anyway.
Nick: SAME (except I won’t).
Julian: Fair enough. That’s the end of round #2 — let’s do a quick money check before Sarah begins round #3. By my calculations, Sarah has spent $645 of her $650. So unless she can find a $5 annual fee card, she’s officially restricted to no annual fee cards for the rest of the draft.
Zach: Well, that’s good utilization!
Sarah: One question: if a card waives the fee the first year do we still count the fee?
Julian: Yes — no annual fee waivers in this game since we’re talking about holding cards for the duration.
Sarah: Cool, figured.
Julian: I’ve spent $545 of $650, Nick has spend $450 of $650. And Zach is apparently saving his salary cap money for retirement since he’s only spent $170 so far.
Zach: 90,000 bonus points for having $450+ left at the end?
Julian: No, but you can use that money to hit the road and start your new life in Pittsburgh. OK, start of Round #3. Sarah, you’re up.
Sarah: Chase Freedom.
Zach: All about the bonus categories, huh? Respect.
Sarah: The categories always work out well for me with this card
Sarah: Oh yeah, on Amex Travel all day every day!
Zach: (Guys I’m onto my final round of Jelly Bellys… what are you munching on?)
Nick: I’m sipping on a cold Corona by the pool bar in Miami-ish
Julian: Some of us haven’t had lunch yet, Zach, cause our Editor in Chief is a slave driver.
Zach: Yeah, blame it on the man who arranged free lunch for everyone every day.
Sarah: I had some E.L. Fudge cookies to give me a sugar boost before this started.
Julian: Sarah played it smart. I’m running on fumes already.
Sarah: Also: Jelly Bellys in the office?? The snack selection just keeps getting better.
Zach: These were B.Y.O.J.B.s. But still…
Julian: So I’ve picked myself into a situation, because I am now locked out of the Ultimate Rewards ecosystem. Unless I’m miscounting, there are no Ultimate Rewards cards left, at least ones that can transfer to travel partners.
Sarah: I believe you’re correct.
Zach: Unless you’re a J.P. Morgan Private Bank customer with $10 million invested. And more left to your budget than you actually have. So…
Julian: Let me check — nope, I do not have $10 million yet. Just wanted to be sure.
Zach: Yeah that’s a different Slack chat.
Julian: OK, so I’m going to have to go a different direction and diversify with a different, even more powerful program. That’s right, folks, I’m picking a SPG card, but I’m taking the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express one so I can get the extra business benefits.
Nick: Tremendous loyalty program.
Julian: Yeah, though it’ll take me forever to earn those points. Nick, I believe you are on the clock.
Nick: Ok — I’m diversifying as well with the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express… definitely want some MR [Membership Rewards] points to play with at some point.
Zach: Mr. MR over here! SLACKBOT: (Good one Zach.)
Sarah: Oh boy.
Nick: Slackbot and Zach are BFF’s.
Zach: Hey, thanks slackbot! You’re my best friend.
Zach: I appreciate the excitement but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Is it my turn?
Julian: It is, and I can’t wait to see how this next pick fits into your motley crew of cards.
Zach: Ha! Bet you didn’t see this one coming… Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard.
Zach: Nobody loves Amtrak, but I get a ton of value out of last minute redemptions to Philly and the companion ticket and first-class upgrade and 20k points worth $500. I’m good with this.
Nick: Nothing like the first class experience on Amtrak.
Sarah: $79 annual fee — had to double-check that one!
Zach: It’s actually not half-bad… free hot meal, service with a smile.
Julian: Amtrak is great so long as you don’t mind getting to your destination a day or two later than scheduled.
Zach: There it is. Yeah, so, CSP, Hyatt and Amtrak. I’m at… $249. Which still leaves enough for one premium card.
Julian: Depends on which one.
Zach: Any guesses? Am I kicking off Round 4?
Julian: You are. Guesses, anyone?
Zach: This probably won’t help much, but I’ll give you a clue… it launched Monday.
Nick: ~ Altitude ~
Zach: Nope! Altitude RESERVE! You were pretty close, guys.
Sarah: Oh well, excuse me.
Nick: Remember when Zach unboxed it with a drone?!?!?! Very exciting day.
Zach: I have no idea what you’re talking about. That never happened. I’ve never unboxed a credit card on camera… that would be so silly.
Sarah: Taking the points and miles hobby to a whole new level.
Nick: To new heights!
Zach: Oh that’s funny! Drone… heights… I get it! Anyway, yeah, I like my card picks, and I’m at $649 total. Talk about maximizing!
Sarah: Maximize Monday, amirite?
Julian: Yeah, I think you’ll have to step up the unboxing when your Altitude gets here. Maybe you can take it on an Amtrak train and film yourself unboxing it while you spend hours in a remote station waiting for your train to get moving again. OK, Nick, you’re up. This is, I forgot to mention earlier, the last round. Zach started it with the Altitude. Nick, you have $5 in salary cap space left.
Nick: I think I’m going to take the Citi Double Cash Card.
Julian: Ahhh, dangit.
Julian: That was definitely going to be my last pick.
Nick: Sorry to steal your thunder (I’m actually not sorry).
Julian: #sorrynotsorry. OK, with my final pick I’ll have to take the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature. It also gets 2% cash back on everything, but requires jumping through some hoops to get the money. And every time I have to jump through those hoops, I’m going to curse Nick’s name.
Julian: Thankfully at least it’s now a Visa card — otherwise I’d be stuck with a 4 card portfolio of Amex cards. And we are up to our final pick. Sarah, bring us home.
Sarah: So it’s between the Discover it® Cash Back and the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express.
Julian: Yeah, I was thinking about the Discover card myself, but there are still too many places that won’t take it, and I had nothing but Amex cards already so I was in danger of having to use cash at some stores.
Sarah: Ah yes, good point.
Julian: Everyone officially has their cards! Let’s take a look at how we did…
|Sarah Silbert||Julian Mark Kheel||Nick Ellis||Zach Honig|
|Round 1||Amex Platinum Personal ($550)||Amex Platinum Business ($450)||Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450)||Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95)|
|Round 2||Ink Business Preferred ($95)||Amex Everyday Preferred ($95)||Chase Freedom Unlimited ($0)||Hyatt Credit Card ($75)|
|Round 3||Chase Freedom ($0)||SPG Business ($95)||Amex Premier Rewards Gold ($195)||Amtrak World Mastercard ($79)|
|Round 4||Amex EveryDay ($0)||Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature ($0)||Citi Double Cash Card ($0)||U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card ($400)|
Julian: I put the word “RESERVE” in all capital letters for you, Zach. But I still can’t believe you took the Amtrak card.
Zach: Is that going to hurt me in the end? We’ll see…
Julian: Well, taking a look at these, I think Nick might have the most balanced card portfolio. He’s got the CSR and Freedom Unlimited handcuff, a solid Amex card, and a 2% no fee cash back card.
Nick: I like what I’m hearing.
Sarah: Agreed, that’s a very solid lineup.
Zach: Yeah, I support Nick buying me sushi.
Julian: Sarah’s also got a pretty good inventory, though it’s focused entirely on MR and UR with no cash back options. But she’s got two good pairings. Though I suppose she could use her Freedom card to get cash back.
Sarah: I’ve never been big on cash back cards, to be honest.
Julian: Zach’s portfolio is… unique.
Sarah: Zach’s portfolio is an accurate representation of him.
Zach: Yes, it’s uniquely mine.
Julian: He’s going to take an Amtrak train to the Park Hyatt Sydney to make 3x mobile purchases.
Nick: Obviously! Is there any other way?
Zach: I’ll race you there, Nick! Please send a proposal with your 23 top regional economy picks and we’ll book the 15 most interesting products.
Nick: Hahahahahahaha. It’s on! The longest possible way to get to Sydney.
Zach: Maximum of 500 miles away from land at any point. All Embraer 145s.
Nick: I have a feeling I’ll be trying a LOT of new airlines.
Sarah: Ones you never knew existed!
Julian: I’ll leave it to you three to judge my portfolio, but just to do some self promotion, even though I did manage to blow the UR thing I think I recovered with the SPG move, I got a solid foothold in MR, and I have a decent 2% cash back fallback option.
Nick: Agreed — the SPG card really saved you.
Sarah: Yep, not too shabby.
Zach: Plus you organized this and I want to be invited back…
Sarah: You just have to spend, spend, spend on that SPG Amex to get lots of points.
Julian: True. So I’m going to rank us Nick #1, Sarah and myself somewhere between #2 and #3, and Mr. Altitude Reserve bringing up the rear.
Zach: Well, at least I got to spend some quality time with you four folks. Right, sushi?
Nick: Victory is sweet.
Who do you think won and lost? Share your thoughts in the comments below.